The Law of Love is the Source of Spiritual Life

“…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through
the Holy Spirit who has been given to us
(Rom. 5:5)
.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Thomas AquinasSt. Thomas Aquinas: “The principle of every good is in this: the law of love is the source of spiritual life. It is a natural and manifest fact that the loving heart is inhabited by what it loves. Whoever loves God possesses Him within. ‘He who dwells in charity* dwells in God and God in him (1 John 4:16).’ The nature of love transforms whoever loves into the beloved being. If we love God we will be completely divine. ‘Whoever is united with the Lord becomes one spirit with Him(1 Cor. 6:17).

“Without charity, the soul no longer acts: ‘Whoever does not love abides in death(1 John 3:14). If a person possesses all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but lacks charity, that person has no life. For it matters not whether one has the grace of tongues, or the gift of faith, or any other gift such as prophecy; these do not bring life without charity. Even if a dead body should be adorned with gold and precious jewels, it nevertheless remains dead. Charity leads to the observance of the divine commandments. …We see a lover do great and difficult things because of the One loved, and that is why the Lord says, ‘If anyone loves Me he will keep My word(John 14:23). Whoever keeps this command and the law of divine love fulfills the whole law. Charity provides protection against adversity. Misfortune cannot harm one who has charity; rather it becomes useful to that person. Misfortune and difficulties seem pleasant to the lover. Charity truly leads to happiness, since eternal blessedness is promised only to those who have charity. For all other things are insufficient without charity. You must note that it is only the different degrees of charity, and not those of any other virtues, which constitute the different degrees of blessedness. Many of the saints were more austere than the apostles, but the apostles excel all the other saints in blessedness because of their higher degree of charity.”  (Text reposted from Secret Harbour, by Jeffrey Allen)

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*CHARITY:
  The word “charity” is from the latin root ‘caritas’. It embraces the fullness of love; from the, “supreme love to God,” that bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the beloved personal qualities of 1 Cor 13.”

“This is My Beloved Son…” Feast of the Transfiguration

The Apostle St. Peter“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Pet. 1:16-19 RSVCE).”

Leo the Great: “For when the Father said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom, I am well pleased; listen to Him,’ was it not clearly meant, ‘This is My Son’, Who is eternally from Me and with Me? ‘This is My Son’, not adopted, but true-born, not created from another source, but begotten of Me, nor made like Me from another nature, but born equal to Me of My nature (John 1:14). ‘This is My Son’, through Whom all things were made, and without Whom was nothing made (John 1:3). All things that I do He does in like manner, and whatever I perform, He performs with Me inseparably (John 5:19) and without difference: for the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son (John 14:11) and Our Unity is never divided. (John 10:30).

“Listen to Him, therefore, because He is the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), He is My Power and Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24). ‘Listen to Him’, Who redeems the world by His blood (Eph. 1:7), Who binds the devil and carries off his captives (Matt. 12:28-29), Who destroys the bond of sin [and sets you free] (John 8:34-36). ‘Listen to Him’, Who opens the way to heaven, and by the… cross prepares for you the steps of ascent to the Kingdom.

“These things, dearly beloved, were said not only for those who heard them with their own ears, but in these three Apostles the whole Church has learned all that their eyes saw and their ears heard. Let all men’s faith be established according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ’s cross through which the world was redeemed.” (Leo the Great, 440-461 A.D., excerpts from Homily 51, On the Transfiguration – portions of a previous post)

Prayer and Wisdom against Temptation & Spiritual Danger

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.(Matt. 26:41, Mark 14:38)

Spirit is willing, flesh is weak

St. John Chrysostom: “Inasmuch as Christ Himself came to instruct us in all virtue, He both tells us what ought to be done, and does it… He commanded men to pray for their enemies (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:28) and teaches this by means of His acts; for when He had ascended the cross He said, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).’ Therefore, as He commanded men to pray so does He Himself pray, instructing you to do so by His own persistent utterances of prayer.

“Since then He commanded them to pray ‘lead us not into temptation [but deliver us from evil] (Matt. 6:13),’ He instructs them in this very precept by putting it into practice Himself, saying ‘Father if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me (Matt. 26:39).’ Thus teaching all the saints not to plunge into dangers, not to fling themselves into danger… not to rush forwards themselves, or to be the first to advance against terrors. Why pray this way? Both to teach us lowliness of mind, and also to deliver us from the charge of vainglory. On this account it is also said in this passage that… after He had prayed He said to His disciples ‘Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation.’ Jesus not only prays but also admonishes, ‘For the spirit indeed is willing,’ He said, ‘but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41, Mark 14:38).’

“Now this He said by way of emptying their soul of vanity and delivering them from pride, teaching them self-restraint, training them to practice moderation. Therefore, the prayer which He wished to teach them, He Himself also offered… instructing us to pray, and even to seek deliverance from distress; but, if this be not permitted, then to acquiesce in what seems good to God. Therefore He said ‘Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt (Matt. 26:39);’ not because He had one will and the Father another; but again, that He might instruct men…

“By means of this prayer, Christ taught both these truths, that we should not plunge into dangers, but rather pray that we may not fall into them; but if they come upon us we should bear them bravely, and postpone our own will to the will of God. Knowing these things then let us pray that we may never enter into temptation; but if we do enter it let us beseech God to give us patience and courage, and let us honor His will in preference to every will of our own. For then we shall pass through this present life with safety, and shall obtain the blessings to come: which may we all receive by the favor and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom be to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, glory, might, honor, now and forever world without end. Amen.”  (St. John Chrysostom (347-407), Excerpts from Against Marcionists and Manichaeans)

The Love of God Contrasted with the Love of the World

Leo the GreatSt. Leo the Great: “There are two loves from which all wishes proceed, and they are as different in quality as they are different in their sources. For the reasonable soul, which cannot exist without love, is the lover either of God or the world. In the love of God there is no excess, but in the love of the world all is hurtful. Therefore we must cling inseparably to eternal treasures, but things temporal we must use like passers-by, so that as sojourners hastening to return to our own land, all the good things of this world which meet us may be as aids on the way, not snares to detain us….

“As the world attracts us with its appearance and abundance and variety, it is not easy to turn away from it unless in the beauty of things visible the Creator rather than the creature is loved; for, when He says, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37),’ He wishes us in nothing to loosen ourselves from the bonds of His love. And when He links the love of our neighbor also to this command, He enjoins on us the imitation of His own goodness, that we should love what He loves and do what He does. For although ‘we are God’s fellow workers and God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9),’ and ‘neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7),’ yet in all things He requires our ministry and service, and wishes us to be the stewards of His gifts, so that he who bears God’s image may do God’s will.

“For this reason, in the Lord’s prayer we say most devoutly, ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).’ For what else do we ask for in these words but that God may subdue those whom He has not yet subdued, and that as in heaven He makes the angels ministers of His will, so also on earth He may make men. And in seeking this we love God, and we also love our neighbor; and the love within us has but one Object, since we desire the bond-servant to serve and the Lord to have rule.” (Leo the Great, Sermon XC, ch. 3, Scripture: RSVCE)

The Eucharist: God’s Grace Has More Power Than Nature

“Do not consider the merits of individuals, but the office of the priests. Or, if you look at the merits, consider the priest as Elijah. Look upon the merits of Peter also, or of Paul, who handed down to us this mystery which they had received of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:23-25). Consider not the bodily forms, but the grace of the Mysteries*. Believe that the Lord Jesus is present at the invocation of the priest… (St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 374-397)

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St. Ambrose: “Perhaps you will say, ‘I see something else, how is it that you say I receive the Body of Christ?’ First of all, the Apostle taught you to, “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).”

Holy-Communion

“…Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and that the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.

“Moses was holding a rod, he cast it down and it became a serpent. Again, he took hold of the tail of the serpent and it returned to the nature of a rod (Ex. 4:3, 4). You see that by virtue of the prophetic office there were two changes, of the nature both of the serpent and of the rod. …The people of the fathers thirsted, Moses touched the rock and water flowed out of the rock (Ex. 17:6). Did not grace work a result contrary to nature, so that the rock poured forth water, which by nature it did not contain? Marah was a most bitter stream, so that the thirsting people could not drink. Moses cast wood into the water and the water lost its bitterness, which grace suddenly tempered (Ex. 15:25). In the time of Elisha the prophet, one of the sons of the prophets lost the head from his axe, which sank. He who had lost the iron asked Elisha, who cast in a piece of wood and the iron swam (2 Kings 6:3-6). This, too, we clearly recognize as having happened contrary to nature, for iron is of heavier nature than water.

“We see, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet’s blessing. If the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that Divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. If the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:37-39), shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: ‘He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created (Ps. 33:9 LXX**).’ Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to create out of nothing that which never existed, be able to change things which already exist into what they were not? For it is no less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

“Let us use the example… of the Incarnation to prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which was crucified and buried, this then is truly the Sacrament of His Body.

“The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: ‘This is My Body (Matt. 26:26).’ Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood, [‘this is My blood of the covenant] (Matt. 26:28).’ Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood; and when partaking you say, Amen; that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.” (St. Ambrose, excerpts from Concerning the Mysteries, Chapters 2, 3,  5 & 9. Presented during Lent with a possible date of 387 A.D.)

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* Mysteries: The name Mysteries was that by which the sacraments were commonly known in the Early Church. The word Mysteries is still used in the eastern Orthodox Churches and is the equivalent of our word Sacraments. St. Ambrose uses the words interchangeably.

** LXX: Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was the primary Scripture of the early Church and Fathers.