On the Difference Between True and False Prophets

wolves and lambsPope St. Gregory the Dialogist 540-604

It must also be known that sometimes the Holy Prophets, when they are consulted, through their familiarity with prophesying, pass judgment from their own spirit, believing that they speak thus with the spirit of prophecy, but because they are holy men are swiftly corrected by the Holy Spirit, from Whom they hear what is true and censure themselves for speaking falsely. For who does not know that the Prophet Nathan was a holy man who reproached David the King openly concerning his guilt, and proclaimed what would befall him because of this same guilt? However, at the moment when David had inquired of him because he wished to build a Temple to the Lord, he replied: ‘Go, do all that is in thy heart; because the Lord is with thee’ (2 Kgs. 7:3). Concerning him, it was immediately added: ‘But it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: Go, and say to my servant David: Thus saith the Lord [God], shalt thou build Me a house to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in a house from the day that I brought the children out of the land of Egypt even to this day’ (2 Kgs. 7:4-6). And a little further on: ‘And when those days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house to my name’ (2 Kgs. 7:12-14). Behold Nathan the Prophet, who before had said to the King, ‘Go, and do,’ presently apprised through the spirit of prophecy, proclaiming that this could not be, contradicted the King’s counsel and his own words because he discovered that what he said from his own spirit was false.

In this matter, the difference between true and false prophets is such that true Prophets, if they sometimes speak from their own spirit, having learnt from their hearers’ mind through the Holy Spirit, rapidly correctly this. For false prophets make false prophecies and those alien from the Holy Spirit continue in their falsity. (Homilies on the Book of Ezekiel, Homily 1.16-17)

On the Cleansing Power of the Fear of Death

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[S]ometime the only fear of death doth purge the souls of just men from their smaller sins, as you and I have often heard of a certain holy man that was very much afraid when he came to die: and yet, after he was dead, appeared to his disciples in a white stole, reporting to them in what excellent manner he was received, when he departed out of this world. (Dialogues Bk. 4 Chap. 46)

On Holy Writ

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[T]here are two Testaments of Holy Writ, both of which God wished to be written in order to set us free from the death of the soul. Or indeed because there are two precepts of charity, namely love of God and love of our neighbor, whereby the sayings of Holy Writ quicken us… For we are restored to life through the precepts of Holy Writ, we who lay dead in our guilt. Thus it is rightly said through the Psalmist to Almighty God: “Thy justifications I will never forget: for by them Thou hast given me life” (Ps. 118:93). The precepts of the Lord are called justifications by which He justifies us by correcting us. Of these the Psalmist speaks more plainly: “I will think of Thy justifications: I will not forget Thy words” (Ps. 118:16). Then He quickens us therein because He thereby shows us the spiritual life, and by the afflation of the Spirit instills it into our minds. Because this happens daily in the midst of the elect through the gift of grace…

This Holy Writ has become the light of our journey for us in the darkness of this present life. Hence Peter too says: “Whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). Hence the Psalmist too says: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 118:105). Yet we know that our very lantern is dim for us unless Truth light it for our minds. So the Psalmist says a second time: “For Thou lights my lamp, O Lord: O my God, enlighten my darkness” (Ps. 17:29). For who is a burning lantern unless the light is there? But created light does not shine for us unless it is illumined by the Uncreated Light. (Homilies on Ezekiel, Homily 7.16-17)

On Pope St. Gregory and the Title ‘Ecumenical’

Gregory the Great and the Sixth-Century Dispute Over the Ecumenical Title

An article by George Demacopoulos which explores the dispute between St. Gregory the Dialogist and Patriarch St. John the Faster over the title “Ecumenical”. It argues that the promotion of the title coincided with other Eastern challenges to Roman prestige and St. Gregory’s diplomatic strategies evolved over the course of the controversy. While nothing in his correspondence suggests that he would endorse subsequent claims to universal Roman privilege, Demacopoulos argues that Eastern ambition actually pushed the Pontiff to embrace the rhetorical claims of Petrine privilege.

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Heterodox Sacraments

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[Job’s] friends, who, while acting as his counsellors, at the same time inveigh against him, are an express image of heretics, who under shew of giving counsel, are busied in leading astray; and hence they address the blessed Job as though in behalf of the Lord, but yet the Lord does not commend them, that is, because all heretics, while they try to defend, only offend God.  Whence they are plainly told, and that by the same holy man I desire to reason with God; first shewing that ye are forgers of lies, ye are followers of corrupt doctrines. [Job 13, 3.4.]  According to which it appears that these by their erroneous notions stood as a type of heretics, whom the holy man charges with adhering to a creed [cultui] of corrupt doctrines.  But every heretic, in this, that he is seen to defend God, is a gainsayer of His truth, according to the testimony of the Psalmist, who says, That Thou mightest still the enemy and the defender [Ps. 8, 2. E.V. avenger], for he is an enemy and defender, who so preaches God as thereby to be fighting against Him.
Now because it sometimes happens that heretics being penetrated with the bountiful streams of Divine grace return to the unity of Holy Church, this is well represented in the very reconcilement of his friends.  Yet blessed Job is bidden to intercede for them, because the sacrifices of heretics can never be acceptable to God, unless they be offered in their behalf by the hands of the universal Church, that by her merits they may obtain the recovery of salvation, whom they did strike before by assailing her with the darts of their words; and hence seven sacrifices are recorded to have been offered for them, for whereas in confessing they receive the Spirit of sevenfold grace, they do as it were obtain expiation by seven offerings.  It is hence that in the Apocalypse of John the whole Church is represented by the number of seven Churches [Rev. 1, 12].  Hence it is said of wisdom by Solomon, Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn, out her seven pillars. [Prov. 9, 1] And thus by the very number of the sacrifices those reconciled heretics set forth what they were before, in that these are not united to the perfection of sevenfold grace, except by returning.

But they are well described as having offered for themselves bulls and rams.  For in the bull is figured the neck of pride, and in the ram, the leading of the flocks that follow.  What then is it to slaughter bulls and rams in their behalf, but to put an end to their proud leading, so that they may think humbly of themselves, and not seduce the hearts of the innocent to follow after them.  For they had started away from the unity of the Church with a swelling neck, and were drawing after them the weak folk like flocks following behind.  Therefore let them come to blessed Job; i.e.  return to the Church; and present bulls and rams to be slaughtered for a sevenfold sacrifice, and that they may be united to the universal Church, let them with the interposition of humility kill all the swelling humor wherewith their proud leadership savoured them. (Morals on the Book of Job, Preface: 15, 17-18)

And indeed we have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that whosoever among heretics are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to holy Church, may be recalled to the bosom of mother Church either by unction of chrism, or by imposition of hands, or by profession of the faith only. Hence the West reconciles Arians to the holy Catholic Church by imposition of hands, but the East by the unction of holy chrism. But Monophysites and others are received by a true confession only, because holy baptism, which they have received among heretics, then acquires in them the power of cleansing, when either the former receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands, or the latter are united to the bowels of the holy and universal Church by reason of their confession of the true faith. Those heretics, however, who are not baptized in the name of the Trinity, such as the Bonosiaci and the Cataphrygæ, because the former do not believe in Christ the Lord, and the latter with a perverse understanding believe a certain bad man, Montanus, to be the Holy Spirit, like whom are many others—these, when they come to holy Church, are baptized, because what they received while in their error, not being in the name of the HolyTrinity, was not baptism. Nor can this be called an iteration of baptism, which, as has been said, had not been given in the name of the Trinity. But the Nestorians, since they are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity— though darkened by the error of their heresy in that, after the manner of Jewish unbelief, they believe not the Incarnation of the Only-begotten— when they come to the Holy Catholic Church, are to be taught, by firm holding and profession of the true faith, to believe in one and the same Son of God and man, ourLord God Jesus Christ, the same existing in Divinity before the ages, and the same made man in the end of the ages, because The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us Jn. 1:14.(Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)

On Evangelization and Iconography

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

(597 a.d. British Isles) Augustine [of Canterbury] thus strengthened by the confirmation of the blessed Father Gregory, returned to the work of the word of God, with the servants of Christ, and arrived in Britain… It is reported that, as they drew near to the city, after their manner, with the holy Cross, and the Image of our sovereign Lord and King, Jesus Christ, they, in concert, sung this litany: “We beseech Thee, O Lord, in all Thy mercy, that thy anger and wrath be turned away from this city, and from the holy house, because we have sinned. Hallelujah.” (Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Bk. 1 Chap. XXV)

Chinese imperial Proclamation Tang Dynasty

(638 a.d. China) Bishop Alopen of the Kingdom of Ta-chin (Syria), bringing with him the Sutras and the Images, has come from afar and presented them at our Capital. Having carefully examined the scope of his teaching, we find it to be mysteriously spiritual, and of silent operation. Having observed its principal and most essential points, we reached the conclusion that they cover all that is most important in life…This Teaching is helpful to all creatures and beneficial to all men. So let it have free course throughout the Empire. (The Nestorian Stele Commemorating the Propagation of the Ta-ch’in [Syrian]Luminous Religion in China)

St. Nestor the Chronicler 1056-1114

(987 a.d. Kiev) As [the Greek Orthodox scholar] spoke thus, he exhibited to [Great Prince] Vladimir a canvas on which was depicted the Judgment Day of the Lord, and showed him, on the right, the righteous going to their bliss in Paradise, and on the left, the sinners on their way to torment. Then Vladimir sighed and said, “Happy are they upon the right, but woe to those on the left!” The scholar replied, “If you desire to take your place upon the right with the just, then accept baptism!” Vladimir took this counsel to heart, saying, “I shall wait yet a little longer,” for he wished to inquire about all the faiths. Vladimir then gave the scholar many gifts, and dismissed him with great honor. (The Russian Primary Chronicle) 

On the Honor of the Pope of Rome

Pope St. Gregory the Great ca. 540-604

My honor is the honor of the Universal Church. My honor is the strength and unity of my brethren. I am truly honored when the honor due to every individual amongst them is not withheld. (Migne, P.L. lxxvii, 933 cf. Fouyas, “Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism”, pg. 145)

On Silent Shepherds

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[A]s incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. For often improvident rulers, fearing to lose human favor, shrink timidly from speaking freely the things that are right; and, according to the voice of the Truth Jn. 10:12, serve unto the custody of the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings; since they fly when the wolf comes if they hide themselves under silence. For hence it is that the Lord through the prophet upbraids them, saying, Dumb dogs, that cannot bark Isa. 56:10. Hence again He complains, saying, You have not gone up against the enemy, neither opposed a wall for the house of Israel, to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord Eze. 13:5. Now to go up against the enemy is to go with free voice against the powers of this world for defence of the flock; and to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord is out of love of justice to resist bad men when they contend against us. For, for a shepherd to have feared to say what is right, what else is it but to have turned his back in keeping silence? But surely, if he puts himself in front for the flock, he opposes a wall against the enemy for the house of Israel. Hence again to the sinful people it is said, Your prophets have seen false and foolish things for you: neither did they discover your iniquity, to provoke you to repentance Lam. 2:14. For in sacred language teachers are sometimes called prophets, in that, by pointing out how fleeting are present things, they make manifest the things that are to come. And such the divine discourse convinces of seeing false things, because, while fearing to reprove faults, they vainly flatter evil doers by promising security: neither do they at all discover the iniquity of sinners, since they refrain their voice from chiding. For the language of reproof is the key of discovery, because by chiding it discloses the fault of which even he who has committed it is often himself unaware. Hence Paul says, That he may be able by sound doctrine even to convince the gainsayers Tit. 1:9. Hence through Malachi it is said, The priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth Mal. 2:7. Hence through Isaiah the Lord admonishes, saying, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet  Isa. 58:1. For it is true that whosoever enters on the priesthood undertakes the office of a herald, so as to walk, himself crying aloud, before the coming of the judge who follows terribly. Wherefore, if the priest knows not how to preach, what voice of a loud cry shall the mute herald utter? For hence it is that the Holy Spirit sat upon the first pastors under the appearance of tongues Acts 2:3; because whomsoever He has filled, He himself at once makes eloquent. Hence it is enjoined on Moses that when the priest goes into the tabernacle he shall be encompassed with bells Ex. 28:33; that is, that he shall have about him the sounds of preaching, lest he provoke by his silence the judgment of Him Who beholds him from above. For it is written, That his sound may be heard when he goes in unto the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he die not Ex. 28:35. For the priest, when he goes in or comes out, dies if a sound is not heard from him, because he provokes the wrath of the hidden judge, if he goes without the sound of preaching. Aptly also are the bells described as inserted in his vestments. For what else ought we to take the vestments of the priest to be but righteous works; as the prophet attests when he says, Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness Ps. 131:9? The bells, therefore, are inherent in his vestments to signify that the very works of the priest should also proclaim the way of life together with the sound of his tongue. (Pastoral Rule Bk. 2.4)

On Whole-Burnt Offerings

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

For we call a whole-burnt offering a holocaust… Yet there is a difference between a whole-burnt offering and a sacrifice, because every whole-burnt offering is a sacrifice but not every sacrifice is a whole-burnt offering. For there are many good deeds which are done as sacrifices but they are not whole-burnt offerings, because they do not kindle the whole mind with spiritual love. For those who devote themselves to the things which are of God in such a way that they still do not relinquish certain things which belong to the world, truly make a sacrifice but not a whole burnt-offering. But those who abandon all that belongs to the world and set the whole of their mind alight with the fire of divine love; these truly become a sacrifice and a whole-burnt offering to the Lord Almighty. (On the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Homily XII.30)

On Demonic Encounters at the Departure of the Soul

Lk. 12:20 But God said to him, Fool! This night they demand your soul from you; and that which you prepared, to whom will it be?

Jn. 14:30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on Me…

Eph. 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Jude 1:9 But when the Archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Met. Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos

Also related to the foregoing is the teaching of both Holy Scripture and the holy fathers about the taxing of souls… We find this topic in the whole biblico-patristic tradition and it corresponds to a reality which we need to look at in order to prepare ourselves for the dreadful hour of death… According to the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, the soul at its departure from the body, as well as when it is preparing to leave, senses the presence of demons who are called customs demons, and is possessed with fear because of having to pass through customs.

Of course we must say from the start that the customs demons have no sovereignty over the righteous, those who have united with Christ. The righteous not only will not go through the “customs-houses”, but they will also not be in fear of that. We shall see this better when we compare the teachings of the Fathers… the tax collectors, in their effort to collect as many taxes as they could — and especially in order not to let some people escape who could not accept the very heavy and unjust tax — contrived various means: they would lie in wait in narrow roads and seize passers-by, forcing them to give what they owed. It was very unpleasant and odious to the people of that time. It is just this familiar and odious image which the Fathers used in order to give the people of that time an understanding of the terrible mystery of death and of the terrible things that unfold when the soul is being prepared for departure, especially when it is leaving the body.

The image of the tax collectors certainly belongs to the reality of that time. But the teaching that the demons try to seize a man’s soul at its departure is mentioned in many texts of Holy Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church. We have already seen that after death the souls of the righteous are received by the angels and the souls of the of sinners by the demons. With the malice which all the demons have against men, they would like to dominate everyone and have them in their power forever. But they cannot have authority over the righteous.

A basic passage which the Fathers of the Church interpret as referring to the customs demons is what Christ said shortly before His Passion: “for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me” (Jn. 14, 30). The ruler is this world is the devil. He is called the ruler of the world not because he is really the ruler and final authority in the whole world, but because he dominates the world of the unjust…

St. Paul, referring to the spiritually dead who were deprived of the grace of God, writes: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the ways of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2, 1-2). This passage indicates that men are deadened by sins and the work of the devil.

Likewise the devil is characterised as the prince of the power of the air because he is in the atmosphere and is constantly waging war on men. It is precisely this image which the Fathers have in view, saying that when the soul leaves the body and passes through the air towards heaven, it meets the ruler of the air. The passage also mentions that this ruler is working now too in the sons of disobedience.

There are many passages in the Old Testament which the Fathers use to indicate what is called the souls’ payment of customs duties. I should like to mention two of them. One comes from a psalm of David in which the Prophet King speaks to God and says: “0 Lord my God, in you I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me; and deliver me, lest they tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces, with no one to rescue me” (Psalm 7, 1-2). The other passage is in the book of the Prophet Jeremiah, where it says: “there seemed to be a fire burning in my bones; I was wearied and could not endure, for I heard many mocking me on every side” (Jer. 20, 9-10). (Life After Death pg. 65)

Met. Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk

According to the patristic view widespread in the East, the soul of the righteous encounters angels after its departure from the body (this opinion is partly based on Luke 16:22), but demons torture the soul of a sinner. One of the homilies of Macarius of Egypt speaks of this…We find a similar concept of the fate of a person after death in Blessed Diadochus, the bishop of Photiki, who says that people who have not confessed their sins during life will be terror-stricken at the hour of death. And “he who then finds himself in fear will not pass freely by the prince of Hades, because they consider the timidity of this soul to be a sign of its co-participation in their evil deeds.” But the soul of the God-loving person that bears repentance for sins, at the hour of separation from the body “is borne from the world by angels beyond all the dark hordes, because such a soul is inspired by spiritual love in some way.” It is said in both Macarius and Diadochus that demons meet the souls of sinners, while the souls of the righteous fall into the arms of angels. There exists, however, another idea, according to which the soul of every person, including the righteous, endures trials after death. Basil the Great, speaking on the “steadfast divine ascetics, who have sufficiently grappled with invisible enemies all their life,” claims that when they find themselves at the end of life, “the prince of this age comes to know of it, in order to keep them for himself if there can be found any wounds on them received during the battle, or any kind of stain or imprint of sin.”

…The testimony of another type of patristic literature is the fundamental teaching on the “tribulations” — trials in the afterlife that the soul of each persons endures. This teaching found reflection in various memorials of Byzantine ascetic and hagiographic literature, particularly in The Torments of Blessed Theodora. Described in this account is an experience of going through twenty torments (“tollhouses”), each of which correspond to one of the sins: a person must give answer to the demon-torturer for every sin committed, and if hat person cannot prove their innocence, they will not be permitted to go on to the next torment. To a modern person, such descriptions can seem to be the stuff of fantasy or some kind of unhealthy “eschatological sadism,” although the experience of people who have survived clinical death, researched by doctors, psychologists, and theologians, in some cases support the testimony in these ordeals. (Orthodox Christianity, Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church Vol. II pp. 499-501)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

For the passage, ‘Deliver my soul from the sword, and my only-begotten from the hand of the dog; save me from the lion’s mouth, and my humility from the horns of the unicorns,’ is indicative of the suffering by which He should die, i.e., by crucifixion. For the ‘horns of the, unicorns,’ I have already explained to you, are the figure of the Cross only. And the prayer that His soul should be saved from the sword, and lion’s mouth, and hand of the dog, was a prayer that no one should take possession of His soul: so that, when we arrive at the end of life, we may ask the same petition from God, who is able to turn away every shameless evil angel from taking our souls. (Dialogue with Trypho 105)

St. Melito of Sardis died ca. 180

And what was taken from earth was dissolved, and what was given from God was confined in Hades; and there was separation of what fitted beautifully, and the beautiful body was split apart. For man was being divided by death; a strange disaster and captivity were enclosing him, and he was dragged off a prisoner under the shadows of death, and desolate lay the Father’s image. (On Pascha, 54-56)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Undoubtedly, when the soul, by the power of death, is released from its concretion with the flesh, it is by the very release cleansed and purified: it is, moreover, certain that it escapes from the veil of the flesh into open space, to its clear, and pure, and intrinsic light; and then finds itself enjoying its enfranchisement from matter, and by virtue of its liberty it recovers its divinity, as one who awakes out of sleep passes from images to verities. Then it tells out what it sees; then it exults or it fears, according as it finds what lodging is prepared for it, as soon as it sees the very angel’s face, that arraigner of souls, the Mercury of the poets. (A Treatise on the Soul 53)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

For as a serpent cannot mark its track upon a rock, so the devil could not find sin in the body of Christ. For the Lord says, Behold, the prince of this world comes, and will find nothing in me. (Jn. 14:30) (On Proverbs)

And when those who are conducted by the angels appointed unto the souls have passed through this gate, they do not proceed on one and the same way; but the righteous, being conducted in the light toward the right, and being hymned by the angels stationed at the place, are brought to a locality full of light…. But the unrighteous are dragged toward the left by angels who are ministers of punishment, and they go of their own accord no longer, but are dragged by force as prisoners. And the angels appointed over them send them along, reproaching them and threatening them with an eye of terror, forcing them down into the lower parts. And when they are brought there, those appointed to that service drag them on to the confines or hell. And those who are so near hear incessantly the agitation, and feel the hot smoke. And when that vision is so near, as they see the terrible and excessively glowing spectacle of the fire, they shudder in horror at the expectation of the future judgment, (as if they were) already feeling the power of their punishment. (Against Plato, On the Cause of the Universe)

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

Who could follow the soul of a martyr as it passes beyond all the powers of the air and makes its way toward the altar of heaven? Blessed is that soul which, by the crimson of its blood poured out in martyrdom, puts to rout the ranks of the demons of the air advancing toward it. Blessed is he of whom the angels shall sing the prophetic words as he enters into heaven: “Who is this that comes up from Bosra?”(Hom. in Judic., 7.2. excerpted from “The Angels and Their Mission” by Jean Danielou pg. 115)

St. Alexander of Alexandria died ca. 326

For the form indeed lay rotting in the ground; but that inspiration which had been as the breath of life, was detained separate from the body in a dark place, which is called Hades. There was, therefore, a division of the soul from the body; it was banished ad infernos, while the latter was resolved into dust; and there was a great interval of separation between them; for the body, by the dissolution of the flesh, becomes corrupt; the soul being loosened from it, its action ceases. For as when the king is thrown into chains, the city falls to ruin; or as when the general is taken captive, the army is scattered abroad; or as when the helmsman is shaken off, the vessel is submerged; so when the soul is bound in chains, its body goes to pieces; as the city without its king, so its members are dissolved; as is the case with an army when its general is lost, they are drowned in death, even as happens to a vessel when deprived of its helmsman. The soul, therefore, governed the man, as long as the body survived; even as the king governs the city, the general the army, the helmsman the ship. But it was powerless to rule it, from the time when it was immoveably tied to it, and became immersed in error; therefore it was that it declined from the straight path, and followed tempters, giving heed to fornication, idolatry, and shedding of blood; by which evil deeds it has destroyed the proper manhood. Nay, but itself also being carried at length to the lower regions, it was there detained by the wicked tempter. (On the Soul and Body and Passion of the Lord, 3)

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356

For once, when about to eat, having risen up to pray about the ninth hour, he perceived that he was caught up in the spirit, and, wonderful to tell, he stood and saw himself, as it were, from outside himself, and that he was led in the air by certain ones. Next certain bitter and terrible beings stood in the air and wished to hinder him from passing through. But when his conductors opposed them, they demanded whether he was not accountable to them. And when they wished to sum up the account from his birth, Antony’s conductors stopped them, saying, ‘The Lord has wiped out the sins from his birth, but from the time he became a monk, and devoted himself to God, it is permitted you to make a reckoning.’ Then when they accused him and could not convict him, his way was free and unhindered. And immediately he saw himself, as it were, coming and standing by himself, and again he was Antony as before.

After this, when he once had a discussion with certain men who had come to him concerning the state of the soul and of what nature its place will be after this life, the following night one from above called him, saying, ‘Antony, rise, go out and look.’ Having gone out therefore (for he knew whom he ought to obey) looking up, he beheld one standing and reaching to the clouds, tall, hideous, and fearful, and others ascending as though they were winged. And the figure stretched forth his hands, and some of those who were ascending were stayed by him, while others flew above, and having escaped heaven-ward, were borne aloft free from care. At such, therefore, the giant gnashed his teeth, but rejoiced over those who fell back. And immediately a voice came to Antony, ‘Do you understand what you see?’ And his understanding was opened, and he understood that it was the passing of souls, and that the tall being who stood was the enemy who envies the faithful. And those whom he caught and stopped from passing through are accountable to him, while those whom he was unable to hold as they passed upwards had not been subservient to him. So having seen this, and as it were being reminded, he struggled the more daily to advance towards those things which were before. And these visions he was unwilling to tell, but as he spent much time in prayer, and was amazed, when those who were with him pressed him with questions and forced him, he was compelled to speak, as a father who cannot withhold ought from his children. And he thought that as his conscience was clear, the account would be beneficial for them, that they might learn that discipline bore good fruit, and that visions were oftentimes the solace of their labours. (St. Athanasius: Life of St. Anthony, Chaps. 65-66)

St. Pachomius the Great ca. 292-346

As for you, my son, shun the satisfactions of this age, so as to be happy in the age to come. Do not be negligent, letting the days pass by till unexpectedly they come looking for you and you arrive at the straits of your anguish and the ‘horror-faces’* surround you and drag you off violently to their dark place of terror and anguish. Do not be sad when you are cursed by men; be sad and sigh when you sin — this is the true curse — and when you go away bearing the sores of your sins.

If you have hit your brother, you will be handed over to pitiless angels and you will be chastised in torments of fire for all eternity. (Pachomian Koinonia III: Instructions, Letters, and Other Writings of Saint Pachomius and His Disciples. The Instructions of Saint Pachomius, 23,41)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 295-392

When the soul of a man departs from the body, a certain great mystery is there enacted. If a person is under the guilt of sin, bands of demons and fallen angels approach along with the powers of darkness which capture the soul and drag it as a captive to their place. No one should be suprised by this fact. For if, while a man lived in this life, he was subject to them and was their obedient slave, how much more, when he leaves this world, is he captured and controlled by them? (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 22)

[T]he angel of the Lord that had appeared to him earlier in his [St. Macarius] life, appeared surrounded with heavenly hosts and said to him, ‘Come with us, for all of these are waiting for you.’ The saint replied and said, ‘My master Lord Jesus Christ whom my soul loves, accept my spirit.’ When he said that he gave up his spirit.

This was on the twenty-seventh day of the Coptic month of Baramhat. As the Angel of the Lord was escorting his spirit to Heaven, some of the elders saw the devils come to hinder his ascent. They heard them saying to him. ‘You are saved and have escaped from us.’ The saint replied, ‘Not yet.’ When the saint set one foot inside the Heavenly gate they said to him, ‘You have entered,’ he replied ‘Not yet.’ When he had completely entered they said again to him weeping, ‘You have entered,’ He then shouted back, ‘I have accepted the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I thank my Lord for His Heavenly grace and love to mankind.’ (The Life of St. Macarius the Great)

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

And once more, if the devil, the enemy of our race, having fallen from heaven, wanders about our lower atmosphere, and there bearing rule over his fellow-spirits, as his peers in disobedience, not only works illusions by their means in them that are deceived, but tries to hinder them that are going up (and about this the Apostle says: According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience); while the Lord came to cast down the devil, and clear the air and prepare the way for us up into heaven, as said the Apostle: Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh Heb. 10:20— and this must needs be by death— well, by what other kind of death could this have come to pass, than by one which took place in the air, I mean the cross? For only he that is perfected on the cross dies in the air. Whence it was quite fitting that the Lord suffered this death. For thus being lifted up He cleared the air of the malignity both of the devil and of demons of all kinds, as He says: I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven; and made a new opening of the way up into heaven as He says once more: Lift up your gates, O you princes, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors. (On the Incarnation, Chap. 25)

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

While the dying person addresses his last words to us, suddenly his tongue is at a loss, his eyes dim, his mouth falls silent, his voice paralyzed when the Lord’s troops have arrived, when His frightening armies overwhelm him, when the divine bailiffs invite the soul to be gone from the body, when the inexorable lays hold of us to drag us to the tribunal… Then the angels take the soul and go off through the air. There stand principalities, powers and leaders of the adverse troops who govern the world, merciless accusers, strict agents of an implacable tax bureau, like so many examiners that await the soul in the air, ready to demand a reckoning, to examine everything, brandishing their claims, that is to say our sins: those of youth and of old age, those intentional and those not so, those committed by actions and those by words or thoughts. Great then is the fear of the poor soul, inexpressible its anguish when it sees itself at grips with these myriads of enemies, who stop it, push and shove it, accuse it, hinder it from dwelling in the light, from entering into the land of the living. But the holy angels, taking the soul, lead it away. (“Sur la seconde venue du Christ”, ed. Assemani, tome 3, pp. 275-276. excerpted from “Life After Death According to the Orthodox Tradition” by Jean-Claude Larchet pp. 90-91)

St. Macrina the Younger ca. 327-379

Thou hast given a sign to those that fear Thee in the symbol of the Holy Cross, to destroy the adversary and save our life. O God eternal, to Whom I have been attached from my mother’s womb, Whom my soul has loved with all its strength, to Whom I have dedicated both my flesh and my soul from my youth up until now—-do Thou give me an angel of light to conduct me to the place of refreshment, where is the water of rest, in the bosom of the holy Fathers. Thou that didst break the flaming sword and didst restore to Paradise the man that was crucified with Thee and implored Thy mercies, remember me, too, in Thy kingdom; because I, too, was crucified with Thee, having nailed my flesh to the cross for fear of Thee, and of Thy judgments have I been afraid. Let not the terrible chasm separate me from Thy elect. Nor let the Slanderer stand against me in the way; nor let my sin be found before Thy eyes, if in anything I have sinned in word or deed or thought, led astray by the weakness of our nature. (St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of St. Macrina)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

The dying person, knowing only that there is only one Savior and Liberator cries out: In Thee have I put my hope, save me” from my weakness “and rescue me” from captivity. For I think that the valiant athletes of God, after having kept up the good fight the whole course of their existence against the invisible enemies and escaping every trap, when they arrive at life’s end, are examined by the Prince of this world. If they are found, following the battle, to still have some wounds, stains or remnants of sin, are detained by him. However , if they are to the contrary whole and untainted, these invincible heroes remain free and are admitted by Christ to the place of rest. (Homilies, On Psalm 7, 2 PG 29, 232B, D.)

The one who has done much evil in this life will be confronted by frightening, sinister-looking angels, emitting fire in their breath and their glances because of the harshness of their character; their gloomy and threating demeanor will be like the night. (PG 29.372A7—B6. Excerpted from “The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology by Brian E. Daley. Chap 7: Facing Death in Freedom: Eastern Eschatology in the Age of Nicea [325-400], pg. 82)

Theophilus of Alexandria died ca. 412

The same Abba Theophilus said, “What fear, what trembling, what uneasiness will there be for us when our soul is separated from the body. Then indeed the force and strength of the adverse powers come against us, the rulers of darkness, those who command the world of evil, the principalities, the powers, the spirits of evil. They accuse our souls as in a lawsuit, bringing before it all the sins it has committed, whether deliberately or through ignorance, from its youth until the time when it has been taken away. So they stand accusing it of all it has done. Furthermore, what anxiety do you suppose the soul will have at that hour, until sentence is pronounced and it gains its liberty. That is its hour of affliction, until it sees what will happen to it. On the other hand, the divine powers stand on the opposite side, and they present the good deeds of the soul. Consider the fear and trembling of the soul standing between them until in judgment it receives the sentence of the righteous judge. If it is judged worthy, the demons will receive their punishment, and it will be carried away by the angels. (Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection pp. 81-82)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

[F]rom the parable, it is quite certain that souls when they leave the body do not still linger here, but are forthwith led away. And hear how it is shown: “It came to pass,” it is said, “that he died, and was carried away by the angels.” Not the souls of the just only, but also those of sinners are led away. This also is clear from the case of another rich man. For when his land brought forth abundantly, he said within himself, “What shall I do? I will pull down my barns and build greater,” (Luke xii. 18.) Than this state of mind nothing could be more wretched. He did in truth pull down his barns; for secure storehouses are not built with walls of stone; they are “the mouths of the poor.” But this man neglecting these, was busy about stone walls. What, however, did God say to him? “Thou fool, this night shall they require thy soul of thee.” Mark also: in one passage it is said that the soul is carried away by angels; in the other, that “they require it;” and in the latter case they lead it away as a prisoner; in the former, they guard and conduct it as a crowned victor. And like as in the arena a combatant, having received many wounds, is drenched with blood; his head being then encircled with a crown, those who stand ready by the spot take him up, and with great applause and praise they bear him home amid shouting and admiration. In this way the angels on that occasion led Lazarus also away. But in the other instance dreadful powers, probably sent for that purpose, required the soul. For it is not of its own accord that the soul departs this life; indeed, it is not able. For if when we travel from one city to another we need guides, much more does the soul stand in want of those who can conduct it, when it is separated from the flesh, and is entering upon the future state of existence. (Four Discourses, Chiefly on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Discourse 2.1-2)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Let no one tear her [St. Monica] away from Your protection. Let not the devil, who is a lion and serpent in one, bar her way by force or by guile. For she will not answer that she has no debt to pay, for fear that her cunning accuser should prove her wrong and win her for himself. Her reply will be that her debt has been paid by Christ, to whom none can repay the which He paid for us, though the debt was not His to pay. (Confessions, Bk. 9, 13.36. excerpted from the “Birth of Purgatory” by Frances Le Goff, p. 65)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Lk. 12: 58-59 For whilst you are going with him who has a suit against you in the way to the magistrate, give diligence that you may be delivered, from him; lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the exactor, and the exactor cast you into prison. I tell you, you shall not come out thence, until you have made compensation unto the last mite.

Now perhaps it may be imagined that the sense of this passage is difficult to comprehend: but it will become very easy if we examine the metaphor by what takes place among ourselves. For let there be supposed, He says, some one who has brought a charge against you before one of those in authority, and has pointed you out to those whose office it is to carry the accused into court, and is causing you to be taken thither. “While therefore, He says, you are still with him on the way,” that is, before you have come to the judge, “give diligence,” that is, weary not, in using all your earnestness that you may be delivered from him. For otherwise he will give you up to the judge; and then, when you have been proved to be indebted to him, you will be delivered to the exactors, to those, that is, whose office it is to exact the money; and they will cast you into prison, and make you pay the last mite.

Now all of us, without exception, upon earth are guilty of offences: he who has a suit against us and accuses us is the wicked Satan: for he is “the enemy and the exactor.” While therefore we are in the way: that is, ere yet we have arrived at the termination of our life here, let us deliver ourselves from him: let us do away with the offences of which we have been guilty: let us close his mouth: let us seize upon the grace that is by Christ, which frees us from all debt and penalty, and delivers us from fear and torment: lest if our impurity be not cleansed away, we be carried before the judge, and given over to the exactors, that is, the tormentors, from whose cruelty no man can escape: yea, rather, who will exact vengeance for every fault, whether it be great or small. (Commentary on Luke, Sermon XCV)

LXX Isa. 3:12 My people, the tax collectors scourge you, and the creditors lord it over you.

At a mystical level, on the other hand, the text refers also to other tax collectors, whom those wanting to live an upright life should avoid; the wicked and hostile powers even demand, as it were, of people on earth attention that is depraved, and collect from them as a kind of tax the inclination to the passions of the mind. The sacred text, for instance, blesses those who do not heed the call of the collector; anyone who resists the desires of the flesh and with youthful alertness repels the harm coming from sin, trampling down its overtures and vanquishing the spirits of wickedness, is proof against the call of the collector. Such tax collectors are therefore to be avoided, not allowed to harvest in us the produce leading to sin or apply scourging. Now, we shall succeed in this when we are strengthened in Christ, and expel from our minds wicked thoughts, base desires, and every form of vice. (Commentary on Isaiah Vol. 1: Chapters 1-14 trans. by Robert Charles Hill pg. 97)

St. Euthymius the Great ca. 377-473

Listen to an edifying and true story that some Egyptian elders I met told me about a man thought holy by all but who in secret stirrings of his heart angered God becuase, I think, of assent to impure thoughts. Their story went as follows. A man with second sight, on entering this man’s city, found him gravely ill and all the citizens affirming with tears, “If the saint dies, we have no firther hope of salvation; for we are all protected through his intercession.” On hearing this, the man with second sight hurried off to get a blessing from the supposed saint. When he drew near, he saw many candles all ready and great crowds of clerics and laymen, including the bishop himself, waiting to conduct the funeral. Going in to him, he found him still breathing, and saw with the eye of his mind the devil of hell with a fiery fork inserting the fork into his heart and with many tortures pulling at his soul; and he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Just as his soul did not give me rest for a single day, so you too are not to stop pulling at his soul and torturing it.” I have recounted this to make us at all times ready for combat and prepared for the departure of the soul from the body, lest, seduced by love of pleasure, we be unbearably tormented at the time of departure…let us entreat God, Who has applied corrective not capital punishment, to free His creature from the plot of the impure and pleasure loving spirit. (Cyril of Scythopolis: The Lives of the Monks of Palestine. Life of Euthymius pp. 33-34)

St. Diadochos of Photiki ca. 5th cent.

If we do not confess our involuntary sins as we should, we shall discover an ill-defined fear in ourselves at the hour of our death. We who love the Lord should pray that we should be without fear at that time; for if we are afraid then, we will not be able to freely pass the rulers of the nether-world. They will have as their advocate to plead against us the fear which our soul experiences because of its own wickedness. But the soul which experiences the love of God, at the hour of its departure, is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness. (Philokalia Vol. 1, pg. 295: On Spiritual Knowledge, 100)

St. Symeon of Emesa, Fool for Christ ca. 6th cent.

Grant her angels who will keep her soul safe from the spirits and beasts of the air, evil and unmerciful beings who endeavor to swallow up everything which comes into their midst. Lord, Lord, send out to her mighty guards to rebuke every impure power molesting her. (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of Symeon the Fool, 9; Krueger, p. 141.)

St. Columba of Iona ca. 521-597

[W]hilst the holy man was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), he one day suddenly raised his eyes to heaven and uttered the words, “O happy woman happy because of thy virtues; the angels of God are now carrying thy soul to paradise.” Now these words from the mouth of the saint were heard by a certain religious brother, a Saxon, by name Genere, who was at the moment working at his trade, which was that of a baker. And on the same day of the month, at the end of the same year, the saint addressed the same Genere the Saxon, and said, “I see a wonderful thing; behold, the woman of whom I spake in thy presence last year, now meeteth in the air the soul of her husband, a poor and holy man, and together with the holy angels engageth in a contest for it against the adverse powers; by their united assistance, and by the aid of the virtuous character of the man himself, his soul is rescued from the assaults of the demons, and brought to the place of eternal refreshment. (St. Adamnan, Life of St. Columba Bk. 3.11)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

One must reflect deeply on how frightful the hour of death will be for us, what terror the soul will then experience, what remembrance of all the evils, what forgetfulness of past happiness, what fear, and what apprehension of the Judge. Then the evil spirits will seek out in the departing soul its deeds; then they will present before its view the sins towards which they had disposed it, so as to draw their accomplice to torment. But why do we speak only of the sinful soul, when they come even to the chosen among the dying and seek out their own in them, if they have succeeded with them? (Homilies on the Gospels, XXXIX, 8 [on Luke 19:42-27], PL 76, 1298D-1299D)

St. John the Almsgiver died ca. 616

The blessed man always used to talk much about the thought of death and the departure of the soul so that on several occasions those who went in to him with a haughty bearing and laughing face and bold eyes came out from his presence with humble demeanor and a contrite face and eyes filled with tears. He used to say: ‘My humble opinion is that it suffices for our salvation to meditate continually and seriously about death and to think earnestly upon the fact that nobody will pity us in that hour nor will anyone travel with us out of this life except our good deeds. And when the angels come hastening down, in what a tumult will a soul then be if it is found unready! How it will beg that it may be allowed a further short span of life, only to hear the words: “What about the time you have lived, have you spent it well?” ‘

And again he used to say as though speaking of himself, ‘Humble John, how will you have the strength to “pass the wild beasts of the brake”, [Ps/ 68:30 = LXX 67:31, which read epitimeson tois theriois tou kalamou] when they meet you like tax collectors? Woe is me, what fears and tremors will encompass the soul when it is called to account by so many keen and pitiless accountants?’ (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of St. John the Almsgiver, 41)

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

One of the fathers said that in Thessalonica there was a monastery of virgins. One of them was coerced by the operation of the evil one into going out of the monastery. She went and fell into porneia by the machinations of the demon who scoffed at her until she left the monastery. Once she had fallen, she remained some time in sin then finally, undergoing a change of heart by the cooperation of God the good, she came to repentance. Re-entering her community in order to repent, she fell before the gateway of the monastery — and she died. Her death was revealed to one of the holy bishops. He saw holy angels coming to receive her soul and demons in attendance; he witnessed a dialogue taking place between them. The angels were saying: ‘She came in repentance’, but the demons said: ‘She served us so long a time she is ours’. Their altercation lasted some time and then the demons, those who obstruct the good, said: ‘She did not get as far as entering the monastery; how can you say she repented?” In answer to this the holy angles said: ‘Insofar as God saw her intention tending in that direction, He accepted her repentance. And she was a mistress of repentance by virtue of the goal she set for herself: the Lord the and Master of all.’ Put to shame by these words, the demons withdrew. (The Spiritual Meadow: Supplementary Tales. Cistercian Publications trans. by John Wortley, pg. 200)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

By the fear of God and the threat [of chastisements] to come, halt the violent impulses of the senses. In everything and everywhere remember death and the soul’s terror upon it’s leaving the body, and how the powers of the air and the dark forces come to meet it, all dissociated and cut to pieces in proportion to its disastrous familiarity with them through the passions. (Letters, 24, PG 91, 609C-612D.)

So the Lord put off the principalities and powers at the time of His first experience of temptation in the desert, thereby healing the whole of human nature of the passion connected with pleasure. Yet he despoiled them again at the time of His death, in that He likewise eliminated from our human nature the passion connected with pain. In His love for humanity, He accomplished this restoration for us though He were Himself liable; and what is more, in His goodness, He reckoned to us the glory of what He had restored. So too, since He assumed our nature’s liability to passions, albeit without sin (cf. Heb. 4:10), thereby inciting every evil power and destructive force to go into action, He despoiled them at the moment of His death, right when they came after Him to search Him out. He triumphed (Col. 2:15) over them and made a spectacle of them in His Cross, at the departure of His soul, when the evil powers could find nothing at all [culpable] in the passibility proper to His human nature. (Ad Thalassium 21)

St. John Climacus ca. 7th century

Some of the dying would answer: “Blessed be God Who has not turned away my prayer nor His mercy from me.” (Ps. 62:50) Others would say, “Blessed be the Lord God Who has not given us a prey for their teeth.” (Ps. 123:6) But others would be sad and say: “Will our souls pass through the impassable water of the spirits of the air?” (cf. Ps. 123:5) These would be unsure, and worried about the rendering of accounts after death. (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 5)

St. Anastasios the Sinaite ca. 620-710

We were there at the end of Abba Stephen the Byzantine, I and Abba Theodosios the African who became the bishop of Babylon. As we were chanting the “Blameless is the man…” (Psa. 119 [118 LXX]) as is usual at the gathering of the soul, suddenly his face became very grim and with a commanding voice he spoke to something that appeared to him. “Why do you come here? Go into the outer darkness. You have nothing on me. The Lord is my part.” When we arrived in our chanting at this verse saying, “You are my part, O Lord,” Abba Stephen gave over his spirit to the Lord. Seeking a garment in order to bury him we found nothing at all of wealth and glory.

Abba Stephanos the Cypriot, a serene man participating in the Holy Spirit and adorned with all virtues, had come with me to the holy mountain. When he was about to die he suffered such trouble in departing as nobody had seen; and after remaining many days as if impaled, he died. Someone who knew his work and life had difficulty in his thoughts as to why such a man needed to fall into such trouble. And behold, Stephanos appeared to him in a dream saying, “Brother, although troubled a little, I found greater confidence before the Lord.” (Tales, 20, 28)

One of the brothers met an elder who lived on Mount Sinai and asked him, “Father, tell me how I should pray, for I have done much to anger God.” The elder said to him, “Son, when I pray I say this, ‘Lord, make me worthy to serve You as I have served Satan; make me worthy to love You as I have loved sin.’” And again he said, “It is good to raise the hands in the air and beg God that at its exit the soul might pass unhindered by all the impediments which try to delay it in the air.” (Tales – Supplement 4. Material found only in the Sinai manuscripts. These being primarily Sinai Greek Codex 451, and SGC 659)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Whilst Sigebert still governed the kingdom, there came out of Ireland a holy man called Fursey renowned both for his words and actions, and remarkable for singular virtues, being desirous to live a stranger for our Lord, wherever an opportunity should offer…he built himself the monastery, wherein he might with more freedom indulge his heavenly studies. There, falling sick, as the book about his life informs us, he fell into a trance, and quitting his body from the evening till the cock crew, he was found worthy to behold the choirs of angels, and to hear the praises which are sung in heaven. He was wont to declare, that among other things he distinctly heard this: “The saints shall advance from one virtue to another.” And again, “The God of gods shall be seen in Sion.” Being restored to his body at that time, and again taken from it three days after, he not only saw the greater joys of the blessed, but also extraordinary combats of evil spirits, who by frequent accusations wickedly endeavored to obstruct his journey to heaven; but the angels protecting him, all their endeavors were in vain. Concerning which particulars, if any one desires to be more fully informed, that is, with what subtle fraud the devils represented both his actions and superfluous words, and even his thoughts, as if they had been written down in a book…He also saw devils flying through the fire, raising conflagrations of wars against the just. Then followed accusations of the wicked spirits against him, the defense of the good angels in his favor, and a more extended view of the heavenly troops; as also of holy men of his own nation, who, as he had long since been informed, had been deservedly advanced to the degree of priesthood, from whom he heard many things that might be very salutary to himself, or to all others that would listen to them. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. 3.19)

St. Boniface the Apostle to the Germans ca. 680-755

I thank God that now I can the more fully meet thy wishes, because but lately I spoke with this brother myself, when he came back here from abroad; he set forth to me in his own words the marvellous spectacle which he beheld when rapt in spirit beyond the body… As he quitted the body, angels of such dazzling brightness that he could scarcely look upon them for their splendour, bore him up. With sweet and harmonious voices they were singing, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy wrath: neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure.” “They raised me,” said he, “high into the air, and circling the world I beheld a blazing fire, the mighty flame soaring terribly aloft, as though to grasp the whole mechanism of the world in its embrace, had not the holy angel calmed it with the sign of Christ’s holy cross. When he had made the sign of the cross before the threatening flame, it gradually retired. By its terrible heat I was sorely tried, while my eyes were burned, and my sight was shattered by the brightness of the gleaming spirits until an angel, splendid to behold, touched my head with a protecting hand, and brought me safe from harm in the flames.

He added that during the time while he was out of the body, such a multitude of souls leaving the body had gathered where he was as to exceed what he had thought before to be the numbers of the whole human race. An innumerable band of evil spirits and a bright choir of heavenly angles had also assembled; and there was the greatest dispute between the demons and the angels over the souls leaving the body, for the demons were accusing the dead and making heavy the burden of their sins, while the angels were excusing them and lightening their load. (Letter XIII, To the Holy Virgin and Dear Lady Eadburga)

St. Theodore the Studite ca. 759-826

Are you not afraid of death, which we shall all face in a little while? How are we to look on the fearsome angels, as they come to take us from the body? How are we to journey on that long and unending road, if we have not obtained the necessities for the journey? (Catechesis 103, On Keeping God’s Commandments and the Just Threat Against Those who Neglect Them)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

You fill me with all blessings, O my God; but all of these will not help me if You will not give me the grace to overcome without confusion the gates of death. If the prince of darkness, when he come, should not see Your glory surrounding me and be not completely rendered powerless, he with his darkness be not dissipated by Your inaccessible light and if all the opposing powers with him be not put to flight, seeing the sign of Your stamp on me…of what use to me are all these which are now taking place in me? (Hymns, 28, ll. 201-211; Maloney, p. 152. Also see: Sources Chretiennes, Les Editions du Cerf, Paris. Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos “Life After Death” pg. 68)

St. Boris the Passion-Bearer ca. 986-1015

My Lord, Jesus Christ, hear me this hour and vouchsafe me to share of the company of Thy saints. For, O Lord, even as once this day Zechariah was slaughtered before Thine altar, so now also am I slaughtered before Thee, O Lord. O Lord, Lord, remember not my former transgressions, but save my soul, so that the deceitful counsel of my adversaries may not block its way, and let Thy bright angels receive it. Because, O Lord, Thou art my Savior, do Thou forgive them that do these things, for Thou art the true God, and to Thee is glory forever. Amen. (Hagiography of Kievan Rus’, trans. Paul Hollingsworth [Cambridge, MA: Harvard U, 1992], p. 16)

St. Nikitas Stithatos ca. 1005-1090

[S]ouls, obscured and frightfully plunged in darkness because of the malice of their acts, words and thoughts, their habits, occupations and dispositions, these are the souls of sinners; when they are violently torn from the body, they give off such stench as they have imparted to it in leaving, along with all manner of unpleasantness. These souls, filled with obscurity, stench and rottenness, are dragged away against their will by dark and avenging angels, in the midst of a terrible fear, shaking with fright, to the depths of hell as into a dark prison devoid of consolation. They are handed over to the impure and evil spirits that guard this prison, there where the prince of darkness is held fast by eternal bonds so to be consumed by fire along with his kind, the angels of darkness. They are handed over to them to remain with them eternally in the future; they have, in fact, accepted them as friends during their life in their acts and their words. They have preferred their suggestions, they have implemented them to their loss and others. (On the Soul, XIV, 79-81)

St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves ca. 1009-1074

…I pray Thee, O my Lord, have mercy on my soul, that it may not encounter the malice of Thy enemies, but that Thy angels may receive it and lead it through the trials of the darkness after death towards the light of Thy mercy. (A Life of St. Theodosius, The Way of the Pilgrim and Other Classics of Russian Spirituality edited by G.P. Fedotov)

St. Theophylact of Ochrid ca. 1055-1107

God said unto him, Thou fool, this night they shall require thy soul of thee. The words God said unto him do not mean that God conversed with the rich man, although the parable puts it in this form. Instead, the thought’s that came into the man’s mind are what God spoke. Thou fool. He calls him a fool because everything he wanted was foolish, as we have shown. And every man like him is foolish and acts in vain, for, as David says, in vain doth every man disquiet himself. (Ps. 38:14) Why? Because he stores up things without knowing for whom he gathers them. How can he not be called a fool who does not know that the length of a man’s life rests with God alone and that no man can set limits of his own life? Notice also the words they will require. Like some stern imperial officers demanding tribute, the fearsome angels will ask for your soul, and you will not want to give it because you love this life and claim the things of this life as your own. But they do not demand the soul of a righteous man, because he himself commits his soul into the hands of the God and Father of spirits, and he does so with joy and gladness, not in the least bit grieved that he is handing over his soul to God. For him the body is a light burden, easily shed. But the sinner has made his soul fleshy, something in substance like the body and like the earth, rendering it difficult to separate from the body. This is why the soul must be demanded of him, the same way that harsh tax collectors treat debtors who refuse to pay what is due. See that the Lord did not say, “I shall require thy soul of thee,” but, they shall require. (The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke, Chap. 12.16-21)

St. Meletios Homologetes ca. 1209-1286

…[T]he time of death is full of consternation since all the tax collectors bring forward deeds and words, plans and thoughts, desires, and all that we have done when instructed by them, in obedience to our enemies. Alas for our lack of perception! After the release the powers and authorities and all the principalities of Satan pick everyone out and examine minutely the things that are in the soul and the body. They meet with us to cut and chop, to forcibly drag us down because of the previous disposition we had towards them, because the affection and condition through the passions, and because of our familiarity with them, by which they alienated us from God our Maker and Master. (excerpted from “Traditions of Belief in Late Byzantine Demonology” by R.P.H. Greenfield, pp. 17-18)

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

When the evil one was justly abandoned by the God of the true life because of his voluntary sin, he became a dead spirit… the evil one caused our double death by his single death. Having flung us down even lower than himself, he appeared to be great and exalted, and boasted that he had outwitted us with his intelligence and reduced us to slavery. As he was immortal, he appeared, alas, to be our god. Even after death our souls, having been deserted by God, fell to his lot and he dragged them down to into Hades, and shut them up in seemingly inescapable prisons. (Homily 16, On Holy and Great Saturday)

St. Nilus of Sora 1443-1508

But, O soul, whatever time you still have, give up your shameless deeds and convert yourself to a noble life. Turn to the Lord and cry out with faith: “I have sinned, Lord. But I know your mercy and love for men. For this reason, I fall down and beg your goodness to grant me mercy, O Lord! For my soul will be confused and will be sick at my having turned away from my repentance and at my wicked bodily deeds. May the evil powers never capture me and cast me into darkness for my invisible and visible sins of my whole earthly life.

Have mercy on me, O Master, and do not let my soul ever look upon the ugly countenances of the evil demons, but let your radiant and most glorious angels receive me. You have authority to forgive sins. Forgive me my sins. Let my sin never again be before You for because of my weakness I have sinned in word and in deed and in thought, deliberately and indeliberately. May I turn toward you when I am divested of my body and not be found with any filth on the image of my soul. And may the hand of the dark prince of this world never receive me, a sinner, and drag me into the depths of hell, but may you stand before me and be my Savior and Protector! (Nil Sorsky, The Complete Writings: Have Mercy on Me, O Master!)

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk 1724-1783

After the Prayer of the Ambon at the liturgy on every Lord’s day and holy day, there shall be a reading, either an interpretation of the Gospel, or from another book accepted by the holy Church or even a profitable sermon from the Prologue. On certain Sundays, there shall be read from the Sequential Psalter that greatly profitable sermon, so stirring for for the sleepy and heedless soul, On the Departure of the Soul (*) by St. Cyril of Alexandria. (Journey to Heaven, The Life of St. Tikhon pg. 204)

(*) In the fifth century the depiction of the immediate judgement upon the soul after its departure from the body, called the Particular judgement, was even more closely joined to the depiction of the toll-houses, as we see in St. Cyril of Alexandria’s “Homily on the Departure of the Soul,” which sums up the images of this kind in the Fathers of the Church which preceded him. (Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky “On the Question of the Tollhouses”)

St. Makarios of Corinth 1731-1805

Suffer me to say: if death suddenly overtakes those who delay communicating and finds them unprepared, without Divine Communion, what will be in store for these wretched ones? How will they be able to pass freely by the demonic publicans of the air? (Manna from Athos: The Issue of Frequent Communion on the Holy Mountain in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries by Hieromonk Patapios and Archbishop Chrysostomos, p. 126)

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

The Great Elder [Barsanuphius of Gaza] would give over the souls of certain dying brethren to the Holy Life-giving Trinity, and while they would be passing over to heaven, he would free them from demonic attacks. (The Life of Saints Barsanuphius and John, 5)

St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

Two nuns, who had both been abbesses, died. The Lord revealed to me how their souls had been subjected to the aerial tests, how they had been tried and then condemned. For three days and nights I prayed, wretched as I am, entreating the Mother of God for them, and the Lord in His goodness pardoned them through the prayers of the Mother of God; they passed all the aerial tests and received forgiveness through God’s mercy. (St. Seraphim of Sarov: A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore. Chapter XV “Amazing Wonderworker” pg. 396)

St. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

For the testing of souls as they pass through the spaces of the air there have been established by the dark powers separate judgment places and guards in a remarkable order. In the layers of the under-heaven, from earth to heaven itself, stand guarding legions of fallen spirits. Each division is in charge of a special form of sin and tests the soul in it when the soul reaches this division. The aerial demonic guards and judgment places are called in the patristic writings the toll-houses, and the spirits who serve them are called tax-collectors. (Discourse on Death, Collected Works, vol. III, Saint Petersburg, 1886, p. 136)

At both judgments God Himself is present and judges. At the private judgment He judges by means of angels of light and fallen angels; at the general judgment He judges by means of His Incarnate Word. (The Arena, An Offering to Contemporary Monasticism, p. 6)

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

No matter how absurd the idea of toll-houses may seem to our ‘wise men’, they will not escape passing through them. What do these toll-gatherers seek in those who pass through? They seek whether people might have some of their goods. What kind of goods? Passions. Therefore, in the person whose heart is pure and a stranger to passions, they cannot find anything to wrangle over; on the contrary, the opposing quality will strike them like arrows of lightning. To this someone who has a little education expressed the following thought: The toll-houses are something frightful. But is quite possible that the demons, instead of something frightful, might present something deceptive and seductive, according to all kinds of passions, to the soul as it passes through one after the other. When, during the course of earthly life, the passions have been banished from the heart and the virtues opposed to them have been planted, then no matter what seductive thing you might present, the soul, having no kind of sympathy for it, passes it by, turning away from it with disgust. But when the heart has not been cleansed, the soul will rush to whatever passion the heart has most sympathy for; and the demons will take it like a friend, and then they know where to put it. Therefore, it is very doubtful that a soul, as long as there remain in it sympathies for the objects of any passion, will not be put to shame at the toll-houses. Being put to shame here means that the soul itself is thrown into hell. (The One-Hundred Eighteenth Psalm, Interpreted by Bishop Theophan, Moscow 1891, reprinted Jordanville, 1976 pp. 289-290)

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

Represent to yourself how necessary repose is to the departed one, and how greatly he (or she) needs the prayers for him (or her) of the living, being a member of the one body of the Church; how the demons are contesting his (or her) soul from the angels, and how it trembles, not knowing what its eternal destiny will be. Our prayer of faith and love for the departed means much in the Lord’s sight. (Saint John of Kronstadt on Prayer – Extracts from his Writings. Chap. XI.118 On Prayer for the Departed, pp. 44-45)

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1881-1956

[Taxiotes] spent his entire life in grievous sins, but finally repented, left his military service and adopted a way of life pleasing to God. Once when he had gone with his wife to their property close to the city, he fell into adultery with the wife of his workman, and immediately after this a snake bit him and he died. He lay dead for six hours, and after that he arose and, on the fourth day, broke his silence and related how he had somehow passed through all the toll-houses until he arrived at the toll-house for adultery. There he had fallen into the dark dwelling of the demons, but was then led out by an angel who vouched for him, and had returned to the body to expiate his last sin. He lived in penitence for forty days, going from church to church and striking his head against the doors and thresholds. Weeping incessantly, he spoke of the terrible torments in which sinners lived in that world, and implored people not to sin and to repent of sins already committed. On the fortieth day he went with joy to the Kingdom of the merciful God. (The Prologue from Ochrid: April 10th)

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

[W]hen it leaves the body, the soul finds itself among other spirits, good and bad. Usually it inclines toward those which are more akin to it in spirit, and if while in the body it was under the influence of certain ones, it will remain in dependence upon them when it leaves the body, however unpleasant they may turn out to be upon encountering them.

For the course of two days the soul enjoys relative freedom and can visit places on earth which were dear to it, but on the third day it moves into other spheres. At this time (the third day), it passes through legions of evil spirits which obstruct its path and accuse it of various sins, to which they themselves had tempted it. According to various revelations there are twenty such obstacles, the so-called “toll-houses,” at each of which one or another form of sin is tested; after passing through one the soul comes upon the next one, and only after successfully passing through all of them can the soul continue its path without being immediately cast into gehenna. How terrible these demons and their toll-houses are may be seen in the fact that Mother of God herself, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel of her approaching death, answering her prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared from heaven to receive the soul of His Most Pure Mother and conduct it to heaven. (A Homily on Life After Death)

[T]he Virgin Mary during Her earthly life avoided the glory which belonged to Her as the Mother of the Lord. She preferred to live in quiet and prepare Herself for the departure into eternal life. To the last day of Her earthly life She took care to prove worthy of the Kingdom of Her Son, and before death She prayed that He might deliver Her soul from the malicious spirits that meet human souls on the way to heaven and strive to seize them so as to take them away with them to hades. The Lord fulfilled the prayer of His Mother and in the hour of Her death Himself came from heaven with a multitude of angels to receive Her soul. (The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God)

On Homosexual Acts

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination… Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things… (Lev. 18:22, 24)

For this reason (i.e. their refusal to acknowledge, thank and glorify God) God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameful acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their errors. Rom. 1:26-27)

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

…Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. (Jude 7-8)

St. Polycarp of Smyrna ca. 69-155

For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since “every lust warreth against the spirit; ” and “neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming. Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins also must walk in a blameless and pure conscience. (Epistle to the Philippians Chap. 5)

St. Melito of Sardis died ca. 180

But thou, a person of  liberal mind, and familiar with the truth, if thou wilt properly consider these matters, commune with thine own self; and, though they should clothe thee in the garb of a woman, remember that thou art a man. (A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

For as it was in the days of Noe, they did eat and drink, they bought and sold, they married and were given in marriage, and they knew not, until Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all; as also it was in the days of Lot, they did eat and drink, they bought and sold, they planted and builded, until the time that Lot went out of Sodom; it rained fire from heaven, and destroyed them all: so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of man.” “Watch ye therefore, for ye know not in what day your Lord shall come.” [In these passages] He declares one and the same Lord, who in the times of Noah brought the deluge because of mews disobedience, and who also in the days of Lot rained fire from heaven because of the multitude of sinners among the Sodomites, and who, on account of this same disobedience and similar sins, will bring on the day of judgment at the end of time (in novissimo); on which day He declares that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that city and house which shall not receive the word of His apostles. (Against Heresies Bk. 4.36.3)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Luxury has deranged all things; it has disgraced man. A luxurious niceness seeks everything, attempts everything, forces everything, coerces nature. Men play the part of women, and women that of men, contrary to nature; women are at once wives and husbands: no passage is closed against libidinousness; and their promiscuous lechery is a public institution, and luxury is domesticated. O miserable spectacle! Horrible conduct! (The Instructor 3.3)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

The Christian [man] confines himself to the female sex. (Apology 46)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

Each generation is reminded by what it hears, that whatever has once been done may be done again. Crimes never die out by the lapse of ages; wickedness is never abolished by process of time; impiety is never buried in oblivion. Things which have now ceased to be actual deeds of vice become examples…Men are emasculated, and all the pride and vigour of their sex is effeminated in the disgrace of their enervated body; and he is most pleasing there who has most completely broken down the man into the woman. He grows into praise by virtue of his crime; and the more he is degraded, the more skilful he is considered to be. Such a one is looked upon— oh shame! And looked upon with pleasure. And what cannot such a creature suggest? He inflames the senses, he flatters the affections, he drives out the more vigorous conscience of a virtuous breast; nor is there wanting authority for the enticing abomination, that the mischief may creep upon people with a less perceptible approach.

Oh, if placed on that lofty watchtower you could gaze into the secret places— if you could open the closed doors of sleeping chambers, and recall their dark recesses to the perception of sight—you would behold things done by immodest persons which no chaste eye could look upon; you would see what even to see is a crime; you would see what people embruted with the madness of vice deny that they have done, and yet hasten to do—men with frenzied lusts rushing upon men, doing things which afford no gratification even to those who do them. (Epistle 1.8-9)

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

The sober and joy-producing vine, from whose instructions, as from branches, there joyfully hang down clusters of graces, distilling love, is our Lord Jesus, who says expressly to the apostles, I am the true vine, you are the branches; and my Father is the husbandman. But the wild and death-bearing vine is the devil, who drops down fury and poison and wrath, as Moses relates, writing concerning him, Deut. 32:32-33 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. The inhabitants of Sodom having gathered grapes from this, were goaded on to an unnatural and fruitless desire for males. (Banquet of The Ten Virgins Bk. 5.5)

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

[M]en, denying their nature, and no longer wishing to be males, put on the guise of women, under the idea that they are thus gratifying and honouring the Mother of their so-called gods. But all live along with the basest, and vie with the worst among themselves, and as Paul said, the holy minister of Christ Romans 1:26: For their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness. But acting in this and in like ways, they admit and prove that the life of their so-called gods was of the same kind. For from Zeus they have learned corruption of youth and adultery, from Aphrodite fornication, from Rhea licentiousness, from Ares murders, and from other gods other like things, which the laws punish and from which every sober man turns away. Does it then remain fit to consider them gods who do such things, instead of reckoning them, for the licentiousness of their ways, more irrational than the brutes? Is it fit to consider their worshippers human beings, instead of pitying them as more irrational than the brutes, and more soul-less than inanimate things? For had they considered the intellectual part of their soul they would not have plunged headlong into these things, nor have denied the true God, the Father of Christ. (Against the Heathen, Part 1.26)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Now the pomp of the devil is the madness of theaters and horse-races, and hunting, and all such vanity: from which that holy man praying to be delivered says unto God, Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. Be not interested in the madness of the theatre, where thou wilt behold the wanton gestures of the players, carried on with mockeries and all unseemliness, and the frantic dancing of effeminate men (Catechetical Lectures 19.6)

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

But these speak evil of things which they naturally know not.’For they blaspheme the holiest of holy things, bestowed on us with sanctification, by turning them into dirt.

And these are the things they have ventured to say against the apostles, as the blessed Paul also says, ‘So that some dare blasphemously to report of us that we say, Let us do evil that good may come upon us; whose damnation is just.’

And how many other texts I could cite against the blasphemers! For these persons who debauch themselves with their own hands—and not just they, but the ones who consort with women too—finally get their fill of promiscuous relations with women and grow ardent for each other, men for men, ‘receiving in themselves the recompense of their error’ as the scripture says. For once they are completely ruined they congratulate each other on having received the highest rank. (Panarion 11:6-8)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

…[E]ffeminate and unmanly men, of doubtful sex, but of manifest impiety; to whom, I know not how or why, Emperors of the Romans entrusted authority over men, though their proper function was the charge of women. In this lay the power of that servant of the wicked one, that sower of tares, that forerunner of Antichrist… (Oration 21.21)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

The adulterer will be excluded from the sacrament for fifteen years. During four he will be a weeper, and during five a hearer, during four a kneeler, and for two a slander without communion…He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers. (Letter 217, Canon 58, 62)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another. (Rom. 1:26-27)

All these affections then were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored, than the body in diseases. But behold how here too, as in the case of the doctrines, he deprives them of excuse, by saying of the women, that they changed the natural use. For no one, he means, can say that it was by being hindered of legitimate intercourse that they came to this pass, or that it was from having no means to fulfil their desire that they were driven into this monstrous insaneness. For the changing implies possession. Which also when discoursing upon the doctrines he said, They changed the truth of God for a lie. And with regard to the men again, he shows the same thing by saying, Leaving the natural use of the woman. And in a like way with those, these he also puts out of all means of defending themselves by charging them not only that they had the means of gratification, and left that which they had, and went after another, but that having dishonored that which was natural, they ran after that which was contrary to nature. But that which is contrary to nature has in it an irksomeness and displeasingness, so that they could not fairly allege even pleasure. For genuine pleasure is that which is according to nature. But when God has left one, then all things are turned upside down. And thus not only was their doctrine Satanical, but their life too was diabolical. (Homily 4 on Romans)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

[T]hose offenses which be contrary to nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in detestation and punished; such were those of the Sodomites, which should all nations commit, they should all be held guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which has not so made men that they should in that way abuse one another. For even that fellowship which should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature of which He is author is polluted by the perversity of lust. But You avenge that which men perpetrate against themselves, seeing also that when they sin against You, they do wickedly against their own souls; and iniquity gives itself the lie, either by corrupting or perverting their nature, which You have made and ordained, or by an immoderate use of things permitted, or in burning in things forbidden to that use which is against nature; Rom.1:24-29 or when convicted, raging with heart and voice against You, kicking against the pricks; Acts 9:5 or when, breaking through the pale of human society, they audaciously rejoice in private combinations or divisions, according as they have been pleased or offended. And these things are done whenever You are forsaken, O Fountain of Life, who art the only and true Creator and Ruler of the universe, and by a self-willed pride any one false thing is selected therefrom and loved. (Confessions Bk. 3.8)

St. Sabas the Sanctified ca. 439-532

[O]ur father Sabas would never allow an adolescent to live in his community who had not covered his chin with a beard, because of the snares of the evil one. Whenever he received an adolescent of immature age who wished to make his renunciation, he would welcome him and then send him to the thrice-blessed Abba Theodosius…when sending a brother to the great Abba Theodosius, as has been said, [our father Sabas] would first give him the following admonition: ‘My child, it is unsuitable, indeed harmful, for a lavra like this to contain an adolescent. This is the rule made by the ancient fathers of Scetis and transmitted to me by our great father Euthymius. For seeing me wanting to settle in his lavra when an adolescent, he sent me to the blessed Theoctisus, saying that it is out of place and harmful for an adolescent to live in a lavra. As for you, go off to Abba Theodosius, and you will obtain benefit there.’ (Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of Sabas, 29)

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

[W]e ought to abstain from all base concerns and acts — and especially does this apply to such as have gone to decay through that abominable and impious conduct deservedly hated by God. We speak of the defilement of males (de stupro masculorum) which some men sacrilegiously and impiously dare to attempt, perpetrating vile acts with other men.

For, instructed by the Holy Scriptures, we know that God brought a just judgment upon those who lived in Sodom, on account of this very madness of intercourse, so that to this very day that lands burns with inextinguishable fire. By this God teaches us, in order that by means of legislation we may avert such an untoward fate. Again, we know what the blessed Apostle says about such things, and what laws our state enacts. Wherefore it behoves all who desire to fear God to abstain from conduct so base and criminal that we do not find it committed even by brute beasts. Let those who have not taken part in such doings continue to refrain in the future. But as for those who have been consumed by this kind of disease, let them not only cease to sin in the future, but let them alos duly do penance, and fall down before God and renounce their plague [in confession] to the blessed Patriarch; let them understand the reason for this charge, and, as it is written, bring forth the fruits of repentance. (Novel 141)

St. John the Faster died ca. 595

As for intercourse of men with one another, such as practicing double masturbation, it received the stated penance of up to eighty days.

It has seemed advisable to exclude any man who has been so mad as to copulate with another man from Communion for three years, weeping and fasting, and towards evening confined to xerophagy, and doing two hundred metanies. But as for one who prefers to relax, let him fulfill the fifteen years. (Canons of St. John the Faster: 9, 18)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[I]n Genesis we read that our Lord rained fire and brimstone upon the city of Sodom: that both fire might burn them, and the stench of brimstone smother and kill them: for seeing they burnt with the unlawful love of corruptible flesh, by God’s just judgment they perished both by fire and an unsavoury smell; to the end they might know that they had, by the pleasure of their stinking life, incurred the sorrows of eternal death. (Dialogues Bk. 4, chap. 36)

What is ‘brimstone’ but the fuel of fire, which, however, so cherishes the fire, that it sends out the very foulest stench. What then do we understand by ‘brimstone,’ but carnal sin, which, while it fills the mind with wicked thoughts like a kind of ill savours, is kindling everlasting fires for it; and whilst it spreads the cloud of its stench in the lost soul, it is as it were providing against it fuel for the flames to come after. For that the ill savour of the flesh is understood by brimstone, the mere history of Holy Writ by itself hears record, which relates that the Lord ‘rained down fire and brimstone upon Sodom.’ Who, when He had determined to punish her carnal wickednesses, by the very character of the punishment marked out the stain of her guilt: since ‘brimstone’ hath stench, and fire burning; and so, forasmuch as they had been kindled to bad desires in the ill savour of the flesh, it was meet that they should perish by fire and brimstone combined; that by their just punishment they might be taught what they had done in unjust desire. And so this ‘sulphur is scattered upon the habitation’ of the wicked man, as often as the corrupt indulgence of the flesh exercises dominion within him; and whereas bad thoughts unceasingly occupy him, and forbid his bringing forth the fruit of good practice… (Moralia in Job 14.23)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

The fire of Sodom is poured down upon those who trample on the law of nature by abusing it. And this is the reproof of the conscience, whenever, like fire, it completely burns it. (Questions and Doubts, Question 99)

St. Barsanuphius of Gaza ca. 6th century

May the demons not weaken you so as turn your attention to a brother (to whom you are attracted), or to converse with him; but if you should happen unexpectedly to come together with him, against your desire, restrain your glance with fear and decency and do not listen attentively to his voice. And if this brother, out of ignorance, should himself begin to speak with you or sit next to you, then skillfully avoid him, but not suddenly, rather with decorum. Say to your thought: “Remember the terrible Judgment of God and the shame which will then overtake those who are attracted by these shameful passions.” Compel your thought, and you will receive help, by the prayers of the Saints, and God will have mercy on you. Do not be a child in mind, but a child in malice (1 Cor. 14:20); in mind, O brother, be perfect. Pay heed to yourself, as to how you will meet God. Amen. (Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life. Answers to Questions of Disciples, Question 255)

St. John Climacus of Sinai ca. 7th century

“Blessed are the peacemakers” [Matt. 5:9]. No one will deny this. But I have also seen enemy-makers who are blessed.

A certain two developed impure affection for one another. But one of the discerning fathers, a most experienced man, was the means whereby they came to hate each other, by setting one against the other, telling each that he was being slandered by the other. And this wise man, by human roguery, succeeded in parrying the devil’s malice and in producing hatred by which the impure affection was dissolved.

Some set aside one commandment for the sake of another commandment. I have seen young men who were attached to one another in a right spirit. Yet, in order not to offend other men’s conscience, by mutual agreement they kept apart for a time. (The Divine Ladder, Step 26)

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Single Immersion Baptisms

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

But with respect to trine immersion in baptism, no truer answer can be given than what you have yourself felt to be right; namely that, where there is one faith, a diversity of usage does no harm to holy Church. Now we, in immersing thrice, signify the sacraments of the three days’ sepulcher; so that, when the infant is a third time lifted out of the water, the resurrection after a space of three days may be expressed. Or, if any one should perhaps think that this is done out of veneration for the supreme Trinity, neither so is there any objection to immersing the person to be baptized in the water once, since, there being one substance in three subsistence, it cannot be in any way reprehensible to immerse the infant in baptism either thrice or once, seeing that by three immersions the Trinity of persons, and in one the singleness of the Divinity may be denoted. But, inasmuch as up to this time it has been the custom of heretics to immerse infants in baptism thrice, I am of opinion that this ought not to be done among you; lest, while they number the immersions, they should divide the Divinity, and while they continue to do as they have been used to do, they should boast of having got the better of our custom. (Letters, 1.43)

see alsohere and here

 

St. Benedict and Absolution After Death

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

For not far from his Abbey, there lived two Nuns in a place by themselves, born of worshipful parentage: whom a religious good man did serve for the dispatch of their outward business. But as nobility of family doth in some breed ignobility of mind, and maketh them in conversation to show less humility, because they remember still what superiority they had above others: even so was it with these Nuns: for they had not yet learned to temper their tongues, and keep them under with the bridle of their habit: for often did they by their indiscreet speech provoke the foresaid religious man to anger; who having borne with them a long time, at length he complained to the man of God, and told him with what reproachful words they entreated him: whereupon he sent them by and by this message, saying: “Amend your tongues, otherwise I do excommunicate you”; which sentence of excommunication notwithstanding, he did not then presently pronounce against them, but only threatened if they amended not themselves.

But they, for all this, changed their conditions nothing at all: both which not long after departed this life, and were buried in the church: and when solemn mass was celebrated in the same church, and the Deacon, according to custom, said with loud voice: “If any there be that do not communicate, let them depart”: the nurse, which used to give unto our Lord an offering for them, beheld them at that time to rise out of their graves, and to depart the church. Having often times, at those words of the Deacon, seen them leave the church, and that they could not tarry within, she remembered what message the man of God sent them whiles they were yet alive. For he told them that he did deprive them of the communion, unless they did amend their tongues and conditions. Then with great sorrow, the whole matter was signified to the man of God, who straightways with his own hands gave an oblation, saying: “Go your ways, and cause this to be offered unto our Lord for them, and they shall not remain any longer excommunicate”: which oblation being offered for them, and the Deacon, as he used, crying out, that such as did not communicate should depart, they were not seen any more to go out of the church: whereby it was certain that, seeing they did not depart with them which did not communicate, that they had received the communion of our Lord by the hands of his servant.

PETER: It is very strange that you report: for how could he, though a venerable and most holy man, yet living in mortal body, loose those souls which stood now before the invisible judgment of God?

GREGORY: Was he not yet, Peter, mortal, that heard from our Saviour: “Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in the heavens: and whatsoever thou shalt loose in earth, shall be loosed also in the heavens?” (Matt. 16:19) whose place of binding and loosing those have at this time, which by faith and virtuous life possess the place of holy government: and to bestow such power upon earthly men, the Creator of heaven and earth descended from heaven to earth: and that flesh might judge of spiritual things, God, who for man’s sake was made flesh, vouchsafed to bestow upon him: for from thence our weakness did rise up above itself, from whence the strength of God was weakened under itself.

PETER: For the virtue of his miracles, your words do yield a very good reason. (Dialogues Bk. 2. 23)

On the Priestly Order

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

I say it with tears, I declare it with groans, that, when the priestly order has fallen inwardly, neither will it be able to stand outwardly for long. (Book V, Letter 53)

On Justice and Temperance

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[V]ery often justice, if it knows no bounds, falls into cruelty. Therefore, justice itself is truly justice which restrains itself with the rein of temperance in order that every man may also be temperate in the zeal with which he burns: lest if he be more zealous he lose justice, the bounds of which he ignores. (Homilies on the Book of Ezekiel, Homily 3.8)

On Diverse Weights and Measures

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

For many are the sins which we commit; but they do not, therefore, seem grave to us because, loving ourselves with privy love, with our eyes closed, we delude ourselves in our deception. Hence, it very often happens that we adjudge our own grave sins minor and the petty transgressions of others as major. Indeed, it written: “Men shall be lovers of themselves” (2 Tim. 3:2). And we know that self-love firmly closes the eye of the heart. So it happens that what we do and ajudge trivial is very often done by a neighbor and seems to us only too abominable. But why does this which seemed to us trifling, yet appear grave to us in our neighbor, unless because we do not scrutinize ourselves as we do our neighbor, nor our neighbor as ourselves? For, if we were to look upon ourselves as on a neighbor, we should see our transgressions strictly. And, again, if we were to look on our neighbor as ourselves, his deed would never appear intolerable to us, who perhaps did such things and did not imagine that he had committed an offense intolerable to our neighbor. Moses sought to correct our inconsistent mental judgment by the provisions of the Law, when he said that a bushel must be just and the sextary equal. Solomon says: “Diverse weights and diverse measures, both are abominable before God” (Prov. 20:10). For we know that one thing may be heavier, another lighter, in the false weight of tradesmen. For they have one weight for what they weigh for themselves, and another for what they weigh for their neighbor. For they prepare lighter weights for giving, but heavier weights for receiving. Therefore, every man who weighs with one measure for the things of his neighbor, yet another for his own, has diverse weights. Therefore, both are abominable before God, because if a man were to love his neighbor as himself, he would love him in his good deeds as himself. And if he were to scrutinize himself as his neighbor, he would judge himself in his sins as if he were his neighbor. (Homilies on the Book of Ezekiel, Homily 4.9)

On the Orthodox Anglican Liturgy

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

St. Augustine of Canterbury: ­ Whereas the Faith is one and the same, why are there different customs in different churches? and why is one custom of masses observed in the holy Roman Church, and another in the Gallican Church?

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist: ­ You know, my brother, the custom of the Roman Church in which you remember you were bred up. But it pleases me, that if you have found anything, either in the Roman, or the Gallican, or any other church, which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, you carefully make choice of the same, and sedulously teach the Church of the English, which as yet is new in the Faith, whatsoever you can gather from the several churches. For things are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. Choose, therefore, from every church those things that are pious, religious, and upright, and when you have, as it were, made them up into one body, let the minds of the English be accustomed thereto. (Ecclesiastical History of the English Bk. 1.27)

On the Delights of the Body and the Soul

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

There is this difference, Dearly Beloved Brethren, between the delights of the body and those of the soul, that the delights of the body, when we do not possess them, awaken in us a great desire for them; but when we possess them and enjoy them to the full they straight-away awaken in us a feeling of aversion. But spiritual delights work in the opposite way. While we do not possess them we regard them with dislike and aversion; but once we partake of them, the more do we hunger for them….For spiritual delights, when they fill the soul, increase in us the desire of them; and the more we savor them, the more we come to know what we should eagerly love.

And so we do not know these delights, because we have not come to savor them. For who can love what he does not know? Because of this the Psalmist speaks to us, and exhorts us, saying: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good‘ (Ps. 33: 9)! (Homily on Luke 14:16-24: The Supper of God and the Soul)

On Early Western Liturgical Differences

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

One coming from Sicily has told me that some friends of his, whether Greeks or Latins I know not, as though moved by zeal for the holy Roman Church, murmur about my arrangements [i.e. of divine service], saying, How can he be arranging so as to keep the Constantinopolitan Church in check, when in all respects he follows her usage? And, when I said to him, What usages of hers do we follow? He replied; you have caused Alleluia to be said at mass out of the season of Pentecost ; you have made appointment for the sub-deacons to proceed disrobed, and for Kyrie Eleison to be said, and for the Lord’s Prayer to be said immediately after the canon. To him I replied, that in none of these things have we followed another Church.

For, as to our custom here of saying the Alleluia, it is said to be derived from the Church of Jerusalem by the tradition of the blessed Jerome in the time of pope Damasus of blessed memory; and accordingly in this matter we have rather curtailed the former usage which had been handed down to us here from the Greeks.

Further, as to my having caused the sub-deacons to proceed disrobed, this was the ancient usage of the Church. But it pleased one of our pontiffs, I know not which, to order them to proceed in linen tunics. For have your Churches in any respect received their tradition from the Greeks? Whence, then, have they at the present day the custom of the subdeacons proceeding in linen tunics, except that they have received it from their mother, the Roman Church?

Further, we neither have said nor now say the Kyrie Eleison, as it is said by the Greeks: for among the Greeks all say it together; but with us it is said by the clerks, and responded to by the people; and as often as it is said, Christe Eleison is said also, which is not said at all among the Greeks. Further, in daily masses we suppress some things that are usually said, and say only Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, so as to devote ourselves a little longer to these words of deprecation. But the Lord’s Prayer (orationem Dominicam) we say immediately after the prayer (mox post precem) for this reason, that it was the custom of the apostles to consecrate the host of oblation to (ad) that same prayer only. And it seemed to me very unsuitable that we should say over the oblation a prayer which a scholastic had composed, and should not say the very prayer which our Redeemer composed over His body and blood . But also the Lord’s Prayer among the Greeks is said by all the people, but with us by the priest alone. Wherein, then, have we followed the usages of the Greeks, in that we have either amended our own old ones or appointed new and profitable ones, in which, however, we are not shown to be imitating others? Wherefore, let your Charity, when an occasion presents itself, proceed to the Church of Catana; or in the Church of Syracuse teach those who you believe or understand may possibly be murmuring with respect to this matter, holding a conference there, as though for a different purpose, and so desist not from instructing them. For as to what they say about the Church of Constantinople, who can doubt that it is subject to the Apostolic See, as both the most pious lord the emperor and our brother the bishop of that city continually acknowledge? Yet, if this or any other Church has anything that is good, I am prepared in what is good to imitate even my inferiors, while prohibiting them from things unlawful. For he is foolish who thinks himself first in such a way as to scorn to learn whatever good things he may see. (Bk. 9, Letter 12)

On Angelic Immutability

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

The Angels were created such that if they wished they could continue steadfast in the light of blessedness, but if they did not so wish they could also fall. Consequently even Satan fell with his legions of followers. But after his fall the Angels who remained steadfast were strengthened so that they certainly could not fall. This is well documented in the historical account at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, because God created Heaven which He then called the firmament. Therefore the Heavens were those which were first well made but then called the firmament because they received the virtue of immutability so that they certainly should not fall. (Homilies on the Book of Ezekiel, Fragment I: On Angels)

Pope St. Gregory on the Eucharist

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

This Victim alone saves the soul from eternal ruin, the sacrificing of which presents to us in a mystical way the death of the Only-begotten, who,—though He is now risen from the dead and dies no more, and death will no longer have dominion over Him, for He lives immortally and incorruptibly in Himself,—is immolated for us again in this mystery of the sacred oblation. For His body is eaten there, His flesh is distributed among the people unto salvation, His blood is poured out, no longer in the hands of the faithless but in the mouth of the faithful. Let us take thought, therefore, of what this sacrifice means for us, which is in constant representation of the suffering of the Only-begotten Son, for the sake of our forgiveness. (Dialogues Bk. 4.60)

On the Authorship of Job

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

It would certainly be a vain enterprise to ask who wrote the Book of Job, since in any case the Author of the book is believed, in the Faith, to be the Holy Spirit. He, therefore, wrote this book, who dictated what was to be written. He wrote it, who is both the Inspirer of him who did the work of writing, and who transmitted to us, by the word of the one writing, the facts that were to be presented. If we were to read the words of some great man in a letter we had received, but were to question by what pen the letter had been set down in writing, it would surely be ridiculous to know the author of the letter and to recognize its meaning, and at the same time to try to discover by what sort of pen those words had been inscribed. But when we know the thing itself and hold firmly that the Holy Spirit is its Author, and yet we inquire after its writer, what else are we doing but questioning about the pen which inscribed the words we read? (Moral Teaching from Job Preface 1.2)

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Angelic Nature

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

The angelic nature is distinct from the condition of our nature, because we are both circumscribed in place and confined by blind ignorance, while the spirits of the angels, though certainly circumscribed, are nevertheless incomparably far above us in respect to their knowledge. Certainly they are more extended interiorly and exteriorly in knowing, because they contemplate the Font Itself of knowledge. For what about these things that are knowable? Do they not know them, who know Him who knows all things? Their knowledge, therefore, is very extensive in comparison to ours; nevertheless, it is very narrow in comparison to divine knowledge. In the same way, their very spirits, in comparison to our bodies, are spirit indeed; but in comparison to the Supreme and Uncircumscribed Spirit, they are body. And again, they are sent and they stand by; for, inasmuch as they are circumscribed, they go forth, and inasmuch as they are always interiorly present, they never depart. Therefore do they always see the face of the Father, while at the same time they do come to us; for they go forth to us externally by their spiritual presence, while, through internal contemplation they remain in service in the place from whence they went forth. (Moral Teaching from Job 2.3.3)

The angelic nature, when it was created, received the free choice of whether it would will to continue in humility and remain within the sight of Almighty God, or whether it would succumb to pride and fall away from beatitude… But because, though others fell, the holy angels stood firm in their beatitude, they received as a reward an absolute inability any more to fall, so that in themtheir own nature, because it can no longer be directed in any changeable way, has been solidified as if into a huge crystal. (Homilies on Ezekiel 1.7.18)

We said there are nine choirs of angels because we know on the witness of Sacred Scripture that there are Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. That there are Angels and Archangels almost all the pages of Sacred Scripture bear witness. The books of the Prophets, as is well-known, frequently speak of the Cherubim and Seraphim… If to the four which Paul mentions in writing to the Ephesians, that is, the Principalities, Powers, Virtues, and Dominations, we add the Thrones, there are five choirs specially designated. And if we add to these the Angels, Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, it will be found that there are beyond a doubt nine choirs of angels. (Homilies on the Gospels 2.34.9)

Pope St. Gregory on Synergy

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

The good we do is both of God and of ourselves. It is God’s through prevenient grace, ours through obedient free will. For if it is not God’s, why do we give thanks to Him in eternity? And again, if it is not ours, why do we hope that a reward will be given us? It is not improper that we give thanks; for we know that we were anticipated by God’s gift. And again, it is not improper that we seek a reward, because we know that by obedient free will we chose to do what is good. (Morals on the Teaching of Job 33.21.40)

 

Are the Non-Chalcedonians Orthodox?

People cite Vladyka John [Maximovitch]… To that which has been said above concerning him, I will add yet the following. Two days ago I was conversing about Vladyka John with a man whom Vladyka knew while still in Yugoslavia. When war broke out in the 1940s, and then during the post-war upheavals, this man was forced, “in the struggle for existence”, to roam quite a bit about this wide world. When, after the passage of several years, he again met with Vladyka, he began to recount to him concerning his “tribulations”. In particular, he said: “For three years I had to live where there was no Orthodox church, and I went to the Copts.” “What? You went to the Copts?” inquired Vladyka John. The man, having cringed, as he himself related, at Vladyka’s severe tone, replied: “Yes, I did, but I didn’t attend their liturgies”. “But you did attend the vigils?” “I did, Vladyka.” “But did you repent of it?” “No, but then, I didn’t pray there, I was only present.” “Well, the next time you go to confession, without fail repent of the fact that you were present at the services of the heretics,” concluded Vladyka John. (Metropolitan Philaret [Voznesensky]: Two Letters to Archbishop Averky)

Blessed Elder Paisios considered the anti-Chalcedonians (that is, the Monophysites) — along with the other heretics and those of other religions — to be creatures of God and our brothers according to the flesh, in terms of our common descent from Adam; but he didn’t consider them childern of God and our brothers according to the Spirit, characterizations he applied only to Orthodox Christians. Regarding the Monophysite’s sympathizers and their fervent supporters among the Orthodox, he observed, “They don’t say that the Monophysites didn’t understand the Holy Fathers — they say that the Holy Fathers did not understand them. In other words, they talk as if they are right and and the fathers misunderstood them”. He considered proposals to erase from the liturgical books statements identifying Dioscorus and Severus as heretics to be a blasphemy against the holy fathers. He said, “So many divinely enlightened holy fathers who were there at the time didn’t understand them, took them the wrong way, and now we come along after so many centuries to correct the holy fathers? And they don’t take the miracle of Saint Euphemia into account? Did she misunderstand the heretics’ tome too? (Hieromonk Isaac: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos; 2012 For the English Language by the Holy Monastery of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian , pp. 659-660)

…How is it possible to accept as correct that which has now been understood by twenty-one representatives of the Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches – that is, that for fifteen hundred years the Orthodox and Monophysites had the same Christological Faith – when it is a fact that four Ecumenical Councils condemned the latter as heretical? Is it possible that the Holy Fathers who took part in them were mistaken, and were unjust towards the Monophysites? Was there not to be found even one of the 630 Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, of the 165 Fathers of the Fifth, of the 227 of the Sixth, or of the 367 of the Seventh, to understand this which the ecumenist Orthodox of Chambésy have now understood – that is, that the Monophysites are not heretics? So it is that 1,389 Holy Fathers are in error, and the twenty-one representatives of the innovative Orthodox are right? Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit did not enlighten the Holy Fathers? Are we to deny the divine inspiration of the Holy Councils? Heretical and blasphemous! Even more boldly, are we to assert that St. Euphemia, who sealed with a miracle the Definition of Faith of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, misunderstood the ‘Orthodoxy’ of the Monophysites because she did not understand the language? A fearsome thing! (*) (Archbishop Chrysostom Kiousis, Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece excerpted from Vladimir Moss, New Zion in Babylon Part 6 pg. 29)

(*) The Council of Chalcedon sat in the cathedral consecrated in the name of the Great-martyr St. Euphemia (+ ca. 307 ad). Present at the council were 630 representatives from all the local Christian Churches. Both the Monophysite and Orthodox parties were well-represented at the council, so the meetings were quite contentious, and no decisive consensus could be reached. Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople suggested that the council submit the decision to the Holy Spirit, acting through Saint Euphemia.

Both parties wrote a confession of their faith and placed them in the tomb of the saint Euphemia which was sealed in the presence of the emperor Marcian (450-457), who placed the imperial seal on it and set a guard to watch over it for three days. During these days both sides fasted and prayed. After three days the tomb was opened and the scroll with the Orthodox confession was seen in the right hand of St Euphemia while the scroll of the Monophysites lay at her feet.

This miracle is attested by a letter sent by the council to Pope St. Leo the Great: For it was God who worked, and the triumphant Euphemia who crowned the meeting as for a bridal , and who, taking our definition of the Faith as her own confession, presented it to her Bridegroom by our most religious Emperor and Christ-loving Empress, appeasing all the tumult of opponents and establishing our confession of the Truth as acceptable to Him, and with hand and tongue setting her seal to the votes of us all in proclamation thereof. (Letter 98.3)

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem also attests to St. Euphemia’s support of Chalcedon in his Synodical Letter ca. 634 a.d.: And the fourth gathering, full of divine wisdom, after the three only in time, was assembled with 639 Fathers, worthy of praise and torch-bearers of the faith. It held its godly convocation by God in Chalcedon and the martyr Euphemia sharing its labors (the one who also up to the present fights on behalf of their definition of faith and speaks unceasingly and mightily about their far-famed and very great assembly). It dispatched that unhallowed pair, I mean Eutyches and Dioscorus, and blocked up their malevolence, hostile to God, which flowed as if from the spring of Apollinaris… (Synodical Letter 2.5.1)

In reality there is not a Father and Saint of the Church throughout the age-long Tradition of the fifteen centuries, from the Fourth Ecumenical Synod until today, who would believe and teach that we do not have differences in faith with the Non-Chalcedonians and that they are essentially Orthodox as we are. On the contrary, there are many great Saints of our Church, after the Synod of Chalcedon, who set forth the depth and the breadth, in any case the extent, of the heresy of the Non-Chalcedonians. Among them are colossi and giants of theology, pillars of Orthodoxy, whose multifarious wisdom, apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit, is astonishing and undeniable, so much superior to the wisdom of those conducting the dialogue today, that it appears risible to argue that they did not understand the reasoning and the positions of the Non-Chalcedonians and that we understand them better today. (Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Professor at the University of Thessaloniki: St. John of Damascus and the ‘Orthodoxy’ of the Non-Chalcedonians)

More than anything else, the spirit of the system distinguishes the Monophysites from St. Cyril. It was not at all easy to reshape Cyril’s inspired doctrine into a logical system, and the terminology made this problem more difficult. Hardest of all was intelligibly defining the form and character of the human “traits” in the God-Man synthesis. The followers of Severus could not speak of Christ’s humanity as a “nature.” It broke down into a system of traits, for the doctrine of the Logos “taking” humanity was still not developed fully by Monophysitism into the idea of “inter-hypostasisness.” The Monophysites usually spoke of the Logos’ humanity as oikonomia. It is not without foundation that the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon detected here a subtle taste of original Docetism. Certainly this is not the Docetism of the ancient Gnostics at all, nor is it Apollinarianism. However, to the followers of Severus the “human” in Christ was not entirely human, for it was not active, was not “self-motivated.” In the contemplation of the Monophysites the human in Christ was like a passive object of Divine influence. Divinization or theosis seems to be a unilateral act of Divinity without sufficiently taking into count the synergism of human freedom, the assumption of which in no way supposes a “second subject.” In their religious experiment the element of freedom in general was not sufficiently pronounced and this could be called anthropological minimalism. (Fr. Georges Florovsky: The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth Through Eighth Centuries)

The “monophysite” position consisted essentially in a sort of “Cyrillian fundamentalism” which allowed no compromise at all. The Chalcedonian orthodox camp was making major terminological concessions and clarifications: the antichalcedonians were making none. Even the great Severus of Antioch, who saw the dangers of unabashed Monophysitism and understood the importance of affirming the full reality of Christ’s manhood, stopped short from accepting “two natures after the union”. Several individual leaders of Monophysitism eventually accepted Chalcedon, but they were disavowed by their flocks.

Essentially a conservative or “fundamentalist” schism, Monophysitism rejected the “catholic” dimension of Chalcedon. Indeed, in the view of Chalcedonian and Neo-Chalcedonian orthodoxy, the catholicity of the Church requires that the one Truth be expressed in different terminologies; that some legitimacy be granted not only to Alexandrian expressions of salvation in Christ, but also to the Antiochian and the Western Latin tradition found in the Tome of Leo (provided there was agreement in substance); that a clearly “diphysite” christology was necessary to refute Eutychianism, and that it did not amount to a disavowal of St. Cyril. By standing for their theology, their formulas only, the Monophysites were moving in the direction of deliberate and exclusive sectarianism. This trend resulted in further grouping and splits, each group affirming its own exclusivity, rejecting other groups by always remaining opposed to Chalcedonian unity…In Egypt alone, by the end of the sixth century, the anti-chalcedonian opposition was split into twenty groups, each claiming canonical and doctrinal purity, and, in many cases, counting adepts in Syria, Arabia and Persia (Fr. John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions: The Christian East After Justinian, pp. 252-253)

Strictly speaking, it is not fair to characterize the anti-Chalcedonians as Monophysites. Most of them were clearly far from being at one with Eutyches. However, it seems doubtful that their Monophysitism was totally verbal and that they were absolutely clear of monophysitizing tendencies and traits. At any rate, it is difficult to be other than negative in our judgment of the Christology of Severus and the anti-Chalcedonians overall. Their Christology seems to have been one-sided, emphasizing the unity of Christ and failing to safeguard equally well the distinction between the divine and human elements in him. Their rejection of the Chalcedonian distinction between person/hypostasis and nature/essence, related as it was to a certain interpretation of Cyril and a kind of Cyrillian fundamentalism, kept them from taking advantage of the Council’s terminological achievements, which, by comparison with the language of Cyril, unquestionably marked a step forward. As Grillmeier has observed, the fact that the anti-Chalcedonians sought unity and distinction on the same level, the level of nature, inevitably led them into a contradiction, which seems to be relevant to the fact that in their various camp various Trinitarian and Christological heresies evolved together with internal schisms, fractions, and splinter groups. Their prejudice against the number two is as suspicious as their relegation of the humanity of Christ to a set of qualities of the Logos. Their unwavering opposition to Chalcedon and it’s post-Chalcedonian exponents indicates that in all probability their Christology differed from theirs. Finally, their monothelitism and monoenergism exerted a negative influence on those theologians of the official Church who, by trying to bridge the gap between the Church and the anti-Chalcedonians, ended up by adopting those positions that led to the outburst of the monothelite controversy of the seventh century. (Fr. Demetrius Bathrellos: The Byzantine Christ/ Person, Nature and Will in the Christology of St. Maximus the Confessor, pg. 33-34)

The condemnation of Eutychius by the Non-Chalcedonians does not constitute in our view a guarantee of their Orthodoxy. They also must condemn the moderate monophysitism of Severos and Dioscoros. It is a very delicate point but nevertheless a fundamental one. Perhaps on this delicate point lies our difference with today’s Non-Chalcedonians. Because of this difference they must explicitly confess the term of the 4th Ecumenical Synod. (Suggestions of a Committee from the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain Athos – Concerning the Dialogue of the Orthodox with the Non-Chalcedonians)

Fourth Ecumenical Council: Chalcedon 451

And the adversary would have been like a wild beast outside the fold, roaring to himself and unable to seize any one, had not the late bishop of Alexandria thrown himself for a prey to him, who, though he had done many terrible things before, eclipsed the former by the latter deeds; for contrary to all the injunctions of the canons, he deposed that blessed shepherd of the saints at Constantinople, Flavian, who displayed such Apostolic faith, and the most pious bishop Eusebius, and acquitted by his terror-won votes Eutyches, who had been condemned for heresy, and restored to him the dignity which your holiness had taken away from him as unworthy of it, and like the strangest of wild beasts, falling upon the vine which he found in the finest condition, he uprooted it and brought in that which had been cast away as unfruitful, and those who acted like true shepherds he cut off, and set over the flocks those who had shown themselves wolves: and besides all this he stretched forth his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Saviour, we mean of course your holiness, and purposed excommunication against one who had at heart the unifying of the Church. And instead of showing penitence for this, instead of begging mercy with tears, he exulted as if over virtuous actions, rejecting your holiness’ letter and resisting all the dogmas of the Truth. (Pope St. Leo, Epistles: Letter 98 From the Council of Chalcedon to Leo)

Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II 553

…[I]f anyone shall calumniate the holy Council of Chalcedon, pretending that it made use of this expression [one hypostasis] in this impious sense, and if he will not recognize rather that the Word of God is united with the flesh hypostatically, and that therefore there is but one hypostasis or one only Person, and that the holy Council of Chalcedon has professed in this sense the one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ: let him be anathema. For since one of the Holy Trinity has been made man, viz.: God the Word, the Holy Trinity has not been increased by the addition of another person or hypostasis. (Canon 5)

The term ‘Orthodox’ originally came into popular usage in the Eastern Christian world as a descriptor of the church communities in the sixth century, to distinguish those who accepted the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon (451 ad) from those who refused them. It grew up as a party term, therefore, meant to distinguish the Byzantine Christians (and the Latins along with them) from those dissenting from the Christological settlement of Chalcedon. (Fr. John McGuckin: The Orthodox Church pg. 24)

It is well known that among the dialogues that the Orthodox Catholic Church is conducting with the heterodox is the one with the Monophysites, or “Non-Chalcedonians,” or “Pre-Chalcedonians,” or the “Ancient Orientals,” or—as they have recently been called, contrary to Tradition—, “Oriental Orthodox.” …[A] fruit of this theological relativism and syncretism that they have been cultivating was the prettified picture of our differences with the Monophysites, who are no longer called such, but at first “Non-Chalcedonians,” then “Pre-Chalcedonians” or “Ancient Orientals,” and now “Orthodox,” since we have demolished the boundaries and the frontiers, despite the advice of the Fathers “not to remove the eternal boundaries which our Fathers established,” and have allowed the Monophysites, who have been heretics for fifteen centuries in the conscience of the Church, to become fellow-heirs of Orthodoxy and be called Orthodox after ourselves, without return and repentance. The theological confusion and muddle is really astonishing, as is the demolition of all the boundaries. If someone just ten years earlier were to read or hear the term “Inter-Orthodox Commission” or “Orthodox Churches,” he would surely understand a commission of Orthodox or local Orthodox Churches that belong to the Orthodox Eastern Catholic Church, which comprises the autocephalous Orthodox Churches of the East with the Church of Constantinople occupying the first place. However, this is not self-evident now; after many years of organized work by the draughtsmen of Ecumenism an “Inter-Orthodox Commission” can include Non-Chalcedonians, since with our acquiescence the Monophysite Churches of the Copts, the Syro-Jacobites, the Armenians, the Ethiopians, et al., are now numbered among the Orthodox Churches of the East. (Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Professor at the University of Thessaloniki: St. John of Damascus and the ‘Orthodoxy’ of the Non-Chalcedonians)

[T]he lack of recognition by the so-called Anti-Chalcedonians of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, and the theory of some Orthodox theologians of Neo-Chalcedonianism, in essence have a common denominator and cannot be accepted by the Orthodox Church.

It is precisely for this reason that we cannot, on the Orthodox side, speak of Anti-Chalcedonians or Pre-Chalcedonians, but only of Monophysites, since the so-called Anti-Chalcedonians believe that, although the union in Christ was of two natures, after the union there is one nature in Christ. Some so-called Anti-Chaldedonians argue that, although after the union there is one nature in Christ, the human nature has not disappeared. And this view is paradoxical. How can it be one nature in Christ after the union “without the human nature disappearing”, and how does this human nature stand by itself, without this being considered Nestorianism, which the Anti-Chalcedonians want to fight? This is the reason that moves me to call them Monophysites and not Anti-Chalcedonians or Pre-Chalcedonians. (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos and St. Blasios, Dialogue with the Monophysites)

Sixth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople III 680-681

Wherefore this our holy and Ecumenical Synod having driven away the impious error which had prevailed for a certain time until now, and following closely the straight path of the holy and approved Fathers, has piously given its full assent to the five holy and Ecumenical Synods (that is to say, to that of the 318 holy Fathers who assembled in Nicea against the raging Arius; and the next in Constantinople of the 150 God-inspired men against Macedonius the adversary of the Spirit, and the impious Apollinaris; and also the first in Ephesus of 200 venerable men convened against Nestorius the Judaizer; and that in Chalcedon of 630 God-inspired Fathers against Eutyches and Dioscorus hated of God; and in addition to these, to the last, that is the Fifth holy Synod assembled in this place, against Theodore of Mopsuestia, Origen, Didymus, and Evagrius, and the writings of Theodoret against the Twelve Chapters of the celebrated Cyril, and the Epistle which was said to be written by Ibas to Maris the Persian), renewing in all things the ancient decrees of religion, and chasing away the impious doctrines of irreligion. And this our holy and Ecumenical Synod inspired of God has set its seal to the Creed which was put forth by the 318 Fathers, and again religiously confirmed by the 150, which also the other holy synods cordially received and ratified for the taking away of every soul-destroying heresy. (The Definition of the Faith)

And as we recognize two natures, so also we recognize two natural wills and two natural operations. For we dare not say that either of the natures which are in Christ in His incarnation is without a will and operation: lest in taking away the proprieties of those natures, we likewise take away the natures of which they are the proprieties. For we neither deny the natural will of his humanity, or its natural operation: lest we also deny what is the chief thing of the dispensation for our salvation, and lest we attribute passions to the Godhead. For this they were attempting who have recently introduced the detestable novelty that in him there is but one will and one operation, renewing the malignancy of Arius, Apollinaris, Eutyches and Severus. (The Prosphoneticus to the Emperor)

Council in Trullo 692

Moreover we confirm that faith which at Chalcedon, the Metropolis, was set forth in accordance with orthodoxy by the six hundred and thirty God-approved fathers in the time of Marcian, who was our Emperor, which handed down with a great and mighty voice, even unto the ends of the earth, that the one Christ, the son of God, is of two natures, and must be glorified in these two natures, and which cast forth from the sacred precincts of the Church as a black pestilence to be avoided, Eutyches, babbling stupidly and inanely, and teaching that the great mystery of the incarnation (οἰκονωμίας) was perfected in thought only. And together with him also Nestorius and Dioscorus of whom the former was the defender and champion of the division, the latter of the confusion [of the two natures in the one Christ], both of whom fell away from the divergence of their impiety to a common depth of perdition and denial of God. (Canon 1)

Whereas we have heard that in some places in the hymn Trisagion there is added after Holy and Immortal, Who was crucified for us, have mercy upon us, and since this as being alien to piety was by the ancient and holy Fathers cast out of the hymn, as also the violent heretics who inserted these new words were cast out of the Church; we also, confirming the things which were formerly piously established by our holy Fathers, anathematize those who after this present decree allow in church this or any other addition to the most sacred hymn; but if indeed he who has transgressed is of the sacerdotal order, we command that he be deprived of his priestly dignity, but if he be a layman or monk let him be cut off. (Canon 81)

…[T]he Manichæans, and Valentinians and Marcionites and all of similar heresies must give certificates and anathematize each his own heresy, and also Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, and the other chiefs of such heresies, and those who think with them, and all the aforesaid heresies; and so they become partakers of the holy Communion. (Canon 95)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist on the method of receiving Monophysites into the Church: Monophysites and others are received by a true confession only, because holy baptism, which they have received among heretics, then acquires in them the power of cleansing, when either the former receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands, or the latter are united to the bowels of the holy and universal Church by reason of their confession of the true faith. (Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)

Seventh Ecumenical Council: Nicea II 787

We detest and anathematize Arius and all the sharers of his absurd opinion; also Macedonius and those who following him are well styled Foes of the Spirit (Pneumatomachi). We confess that our Lady, St. Mary, is properly and truly the Mother of God, because she was the Mother after the flesh of One Person of the Holy Trinity, to wit, Christ our God, as the Council of Ephesus has already defined when it cast out of the Church the impious Nestorius with his colleagues, because he taught that there were two Persons [in Christ]. With the Fathers of this synod we confess that he who was incarnate of the immaculate Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary has two natures, recognizing him as perfect God and perfect man, as also the Council of Chalcedon has promulgated, expelling from the divine Atrium [αὐλῆς] as blasphemers, Eutyches and Dioscorus; and placing in the same category Severus, Peter and a number of others, blaspheming in various fashions. Moreover, with these we anathematize the fables of Origen, Evagrius, and Didymus, in accordance with the decision of the Fifth Council held at Constantinople. We affirm that in Christ there be two wills and two operations according to the reality of each nature, as also the Sixth Synod, held at Constantinople, taught, casting out Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Macarius, and those who agree with them, and all those who are unwilling to be reverent. (The Decree)

And now having carefully traced the traditions of the Apostles and Fathers, we are bold to speak. Having but one mind by the inbreathing of the most Holy Spirit, and being all knit together in one, and understanding the harmonious tradition of the Catholic Church, we are in perfect harmony with the symphonies set forth by the six, holy and ecumenical councils; and accordingly we have anathematised the madness of Arius, the frenzy of Macedonius, the senseless understanding of Appolinarius, the man-worship of Nestorius, the irreverent mingling of the natures devised by Eutyches and Dioscorus, and the many-headed hydra which is their companion. We have also anathematised the idle tales of Origen, Didymus, and Evagrius; and the doctrine of one will held by Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, and Pyrrhus, or rather, we have anathematised their own evil will. Finally, taught by the Spirit, from whom we have drawn pure water, we have with one accord and one soul, altogether wiped out with the sponge of the divine dogmas the newly devised heresy, well-worthy to be classed with those just mentioned, which springing up after them, uttered such empty nonsense about the sacred icons. And the contrivers of this vain, but revolutionary babbling we have cast forth far from the Church’s precincts. (Letter of the Synod to the Emperor and Empress)

Fr. Georges Florovsky: “It is not a case of lifting some simple canonical anathema. The case is much more difficult when the anathema is of theological nature.”(quote excerpted from Suggestions of a Committee from the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain Athos Concerning the Dialogue of the Orthodox with the Non-Chalcedonians)

Lateran Council 649

If anyone according to the holy Fathers, harmoniously with us and likewise with the Faith, does not with mind and lips reject and anathematize all the most abominable heretics together with their impious writings even to one least portion, whom the holy Catholic and apostolic Church of God, that is, the holy and universal five Synods and likewise all the approved Fathers of the Church in harmony, rejects and anathematizes, we mean Sabellius, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Polemon, Eutyches, Dioscurus, Timothy Aelurus, Severus, Theodosius, Colluthus, Themistius, Paul of Samosata , Diodorus, Theodore, Nestorius, Theodulus the Persian, Origen, Didymus, Evagrius, and briefly all the remaining heretics, who have been condemned and cast out by the Catholic Church; whose teachings are the fruit of diabolical operation, and those, who unto the end have obstinately suggested (ideas) similar to these, or do suggest (them), or are believed to suggest (them), with whom (they are) justly (associated), inasmuch as (they are) like them and (are) possessed of a similar error, according to which they are known to teach and by their own error determine their lives…(Canon 18)

St. Maximus the Confessor, who organized this synod presided over by Pope St. Martin, referred to the Lateran Council of 649 as the “sixth synod, which through the divine inspiration of God set forth with all pure piety the doctrines of the holy Fathers”. Although Pope St. Martin and St. Maximus were abducted after the council by Emperor Constans II and tried in Constantinople for their role in the council (Martin being replaced as pope before his death in exile and Maximus having his tongue and right hand cut off), their position was ultimately endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680.

Synodikon of Orthodoxy

To them who reject the teachings which were pronounced for the establishment of the true doctrines of the Church of God by the Holy Fathers Athanasios, Cyril, Ambrose, Amphilochios the God-proclaiming, Leo the most holy Archbishop of Old Rome, and by all the others, and furthermore, who do not embrace the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils, especially those of the Fourth, I say, and of the Sixth, ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA….To Peter the Fuller and insane, who says, ‘Holy Immortal Who was crucified for us,’ ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA… To Peter the Paltry, the heretic, who was surnamed Lycopetrus, or ‘the Wolf,’ to the evil-minded Eutychius and Sabellios, ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA!. To James Stanstalus the Armenian, to Dioscorus the Patriarch of Alexandria, to the godless Severus, as well as to the like-minded Sergius, Paul and Pyrrus, and to Sergius, the disciple of Lycopetrus… ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! To all the Eutychians and Monothelites and Jacobites and Artzibourziter, and simply all heretics,…ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA!

Professor G. Mantzaridis notes: It is not possible under the light of new dogmatic agreement for Synods that were condemned by Ecumenical Synods to be viewed as Orthodox in their teaching content, for a teaching is not exhausted only in the formulation of the dogma but also expresses the unity and identity of the Church. Neither is it possible for people who are anathematized in the Synodicon of Orthodoxy to be regarded as fathers of another Orthodox Church which is finally to be accepted as identical with the Church that formed the Synodicon. Always and especially in crucial times as in the present, attention to the through-the-ages identity and conscious of Orthodoxy is imperative. (G. Mantzaridis, Orthodoxy and European Unity, Thessalonika 1994, p.157-8)

St. Euthymias the Great ca. 377-473

When the news had circulated, as people reported that the great Euthymius had accepted the definition of the faith proclaimed at Chalcedon, all the monks were about to accept it, had they not been prevented by one Theodosius, in appearance a monk but in reality a precursor of Antichrist…Noting Theodosius’ utter shamelessness, the great Euthymius told the fathers not to share in his apostasy and so departed to the utter desert; on hearing of this, many anchorites adopted the same policy. At that time there was a great anchorite of Lycian origin, called Gerasimus (St. Gerasimus of the Jordan died ca. 475), who after succeeding in the monastic life in his own homeland and displaying many combats against the spirits of wickedness had recently left his homeland and was practicing the anchoritic life in the desert by the Jordan. He with the other anchorites had been seduced by the false teaching of Theodosius; but on hearing from almost all the anchorites of the resplendent grace of the great Euthymius he went to him at Rouba, and after staying with him for a considerable time was persuaded to assent to the definition issued by the council of Chalcedon and break off his association with Theodosius, as did other anchorites also…’ (Life of Euthymius, Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives of the Monks of Palestine)

St. Symeon Stylites the Elder ca. 390-459

On this account, I also, though mean and worthless, the refuse of the monks, have conveyed to his majesty my judgment respecting the creed of the six hundred and thirty holy Fathers assembled at Chalcedon, firmly resolving to abide by the faith then revealed by the Holy Spirit: for if, in the midst of two or three who are gathered in His name, the Saviour is present, how could it be otherwise, than that the Holy Spirit should be throughout in the midst of so many and so distinguished holy fathers? (Reply to Emperor Leo I, Evagrius Scholasticus: Ecclesiastical History Bk. 2.10)

St. Sabas the Sanctified ca. 439-532

The patriarch having sent letters in advance to the emperor (St. Justinian) announcing godly Sabas’ arrival, our divinely protected emperor, overjoyed, sent the imperial galleys to meet him; with them went out to meet him the patriarch Epiphanius, Father Eusebius and Bishop Hypatius of Ephesus. Receiving him, they led him to the emperor, and God revealed the grace accompanying his servant to the emperor as he had done previously in the time of Anastasius. For as he entered the palace with the said bishops and came within the curtain, God opened the emperor’s eyes; he saw the radiance of divine favor in the shape of a crown blazing forth and emitting sunlike beams from the head of the old man. Running up, he greeted him with reverence, kissing his godly head with tears of joy; on obtaining his blessing, he took from his hand the petition of Palestine and pressed him to go in and bless the Augusta Theodora. The elder went in and was received with joy by the Augusta, who greeted him respectfully and made this request: ‘Pray for me, father, that God grant me fruit of the womb.’ The Augusta said again, ‘Pray, father, that God give me a child.’ The elder said in reply, ‘The God of glory will maintain your empire in piety and victory.’ The Augusta was grieved at his not granting her request. So when he left her presence, the fathers with him expressed their doubts by asking, ‘Why did you distress the Augusta by not praying as she requested?’ The elder answered them, ‘Believe me, fathers, fruit will never come forth from her womb, lest it suck in the doctrines of Severus and cause worse upheaval to the Church than Anastasius.’ (Life of Sabas, Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives of the Monks of Palestine)

…[I]n the sixty-third year of the life of the great Sabas…He then transfered the Armenians from the little oratory to performing the office of psalmody in the Armenian language…But when some of them to recite the Trisagion hymn with the addition ‘who was crucified for us’ concocted by Peter nicknamed the Fuller, the godly man was rightly indignant and ordered them to chant this hymn in Greek according to the ancient tradition of the catholic Church and not according to the innovation of the said Peter, who had shared the opinions of Eutyches… (Life of Sabas 32, Cyril of Scythopolis: The Lives of the Monks of Palestine)

 The originator and perpetrator of all this is Severus, Acephelos and Apochist (*) from the original beginning, who for the destruction of his own soul and of the commonwealth has by God’s leave for our sins been appointed bishop of Antioch and has anathematized our holy fathers who in every way confirmed the apostolic faith defined and transmitted to us by the holy fathers assembled at Nicea and baptize all in it. Shunning and utterly rejecting communion with this Acephalos, we entreat your Piety to have pity on Sion, the mother of all the churches and protector of your rule dear to God, who is being so ignominiously maltreated and ravaged. (Ss. Sabas and Theodosius the Cenobiarch Petition to the Emperor, Life of Sabas 57)

(*) “Aposchist” means “a separatist” or schismatic. W.H.C. Frend in his work “The Rise of the Monophysite Movement” writes: There could be no greater mistake than to try to see the Monophysites as Donatism in Egyptian or Syrian form. Chalcedon was followed by a schism of hearts and minds throughout the whole of the east, but no ‘altar was set up against altar’ (phraseology of Augustine of Hippo and Optatus of Milevis) as it had been in Africa in 312. No formal break occured until a very considerable number of Christians throughout the east came to feel that it was intolerable to receive sacraments at the hands of one who was not strictly orthodox, especially when in some areas in the east these were received once a year. It was not until the time of Severus of Antioch, and due largely to his ‘strictness’ (akribeia) in relation to the reception of sacraments from Chalcedonians that permanent division between supporters and opponents of Chalcedon was rendered inevitable, and even then the organization of a rival Monophysite hierarchy took a very long while. For the generation following the council this step was not even considered, a fact which must influence any assessment of the nationalist or particularist and indeed any non-theological element in Monophysitism. (Chap. 2 The Emperor and His Church, pg. 62)

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

So then, in that Apollinaris and Manichaeus deny the truth of the two natures in Christ, i.e. of His divinity and His humanity, it is clearly confirmed that those who have earned the name “Acephaloi” are of the same mind as these godless men, even though they may resist being called “Apollinarian” or “Manichaean” so that they may continue their deception. Following from this, it is clearly confirmed that Dioscorus and Timothy Aelurus, to whom the Acephaloi subscribe as fathers and teachers, follow the evil teachings of Apollinaris and Manichaeus, and believe and teach what is contrary to the teachings of Athanasius and Cyril, which we will now show. For instance, in the letter he sent from Gangros to Alexandria, Dioscorus says this:

“Unless the blood of Christ is by nature the blood of God and not of man, how will it differ from the blood of he-goats, young bulls, and heifers? These are earthly and corruptible, and the blood of men is also earthly and corruptible by nature. But as for the blood of Christ, we will never say that it belongs to one of those who is [earthly and corruptible] by nature.”

What could be harder to bear than this blasphemy of Dioscorus? For in denying that the blood of Christ is of the same essence as human nature, it is discovered that he does not confess the flesh of our Lord to be of the same essence as we, and he nullifies the salvation of man because he says that [the Logos’] body is of the same essence as the Logos’ divinity.

…In the same way we will show that Timothy Aelurus also agrees with Manichaeus, and that he also is of a different mind than our holy fathers Athanasius and Cyril. For instance, this Timothy says in the eighth chapter of the third book which he wrote when [exiled] in Cherson: “The nature of Christ is divine only even though it was incarnate.” Manichaeus writes the same thing in his letter to Cyndorus saying: “The whole is one nature although his form was seen as flesh.” To this we say that if, according to the nonsense of Timothy, the nature of Christis divine only, then the Father and the Holy Spirit also are Christ for there is one nature of the Godhead which we attribute to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, this man’s stupidity would mean that [Christ’s] Passion is common [to all three Persons]. (Letter to the Monks of Alexandria Against the Monophysites)

Dioscorus sometimes has wrongly been accused of misinterpreting Cyril’s mind on this point, but in fact he consistently applied Cyril’s ideas and interpreted all christology on the basis of the pure Cyrilline canon, with one significant exception. What he did was to attempt to delete Cyril’s Antiochene negotiations from the picture. He came to regard all Syrian ‘variations’ on the Cyrilline theme as dispensable. This was a fatal emendation of his teacher’s life’s work. Dioscorus regarded the rapprochement of 433 as merely the result of imperial pressure placed on a sick old man, whose judgment had accordingly lapsed. In consequence, he cut across the diphysite literature of Cyril and thus abandoned the policy of mutual search for an agreed terminology that had been slowly bringing the churches together in common agreement after the council of Ephesus. In this, he not only abandoned a part of Cyril’s legacy, but made a large departure from Proclus too. (Fr. John McGuckin: Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controvery pg. 229)

In fact, it seems that Severus understands neither the holy fathers nor the reason for which Nestorius was condemned. For while the holy fathers confessed that the two natures of divinity and humanity were united in Christ, they forbad anyone to say that there in Him two hypostases or two prosopa or two sons. Nestorius, however, confessed that “nature,” “hypostasis,” and “prosopon” are the same thing; he therefore denied the hypostatic union of the two natures and said that each nature had its own hypostasis separate from the other, thereby producing two Christs and two Sons. It was for this blasphemy of his that he was condemned by the holy fathers. St. Cyril refuted this Judaizing madman at the Council of Ephesus by bringing forth the holy fathers who forbid speaking of two sons, but rather proclaim two natures and one son. (Against the Monophysites)

Leontius of Jerusalem ca. 485-543

Since we publicly assert and maintain the statement that the Lord is ‘out of two natures’ along with the statement that He is ‘in two natures’, since we speak of a combination, and of an entire nature, and since we anathematize even an angel from heaven if he doesn’t think likewise, what possible reason can these people have for refusing to agree with us on these, using both ‘out of two’ and ‘in two’, and electing to anathematize Severus, Dioscorus, and those with them, if they don’t think the same? Since blessed Flavian’s explanation says, ‘We are not looking for an excuse not to speak of one nature of the Word of God — made flesh, of course, and become man — because our one Lord Jesus Christ is out of both’, and since the synod loudly proclaims this, in what way, in light of all this, does the synod not agree with these assertions? (Testimonies of the Saints, 1844c)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Besides, since with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, I confess that I receive and revere, as the four books of the Gospel so also the four Councils: to wit, the Nicene, in which the perverse doctrine of Arius is overthrown; the Constantinopolitan also, in which the error of Eunomius and Macedonius is refuted; further, the first Ephesine, in which the impiety of Nestorius is condemned; and the Chalcedonian, in which the pravity of Eutyches and Dioscorus is reprobated. These with full devotion I embrace, and adhere to with most entire approval; since on them, as on a four-square stone, rises the structure of the holy faith; and whosoever, of whatever life and behaviour he may be, holds not fast to their solidity, even though he is seen to be a stone, yet he lies outside the building. The fifth council also I equally venerate, in which the epistle which is called that of Ibas, full of error, is reprobated; Theodorus, who divides the Mediator between God and men into two subsistences, is convicted of having fallen into the perfidy of impiety; and the writings of Theodoritus, in which the faith of the blessed Cyril is impugned, are refuted as having been published with the daring of madness. But all persons whom the aforesaid venerable Councils repudiate I repudiate; those whom they venerate I embrace; since, they having been constituted by universal consent, he overthrows not them but himself, whosoever presumes either to loose those whom they bind, or to bind those whom they loose. Whosoever, therefore, thinks otherwise, let him be anathema. But whosoever holds the faith of the aforesaid synods, peace be to him from God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, Who lives and reigns consubstantially God with Him in the Unity of the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen. (Bk. 1, Letter 25 to John of Constantinople, Eulogius of Alexandria, Gregory of Antioch, John of Jerusalem, and Anastasias, Ex-Patriarch of Antioch)

St. John the Almsgiver of Alexandria died ca. 616

To help this glorious man towards attaining his purpose which was indeed wholly divine, the Lord sent him John and Sophronius, [Sts. John Moschos and Sophronius of Jerusalem] who were wise in the things of God and worthy of perpetual remembrance. They were really honest counselors, and the Patriarch gave unquestioning ear to them as though they were his fathers, and was grateful to them for being most brave and valiant soldiers in the cause of the true faith. For trusting in the might of the Holy Spirit they engaged in a war of dialectics, setting their own wisdom against that of the mad followers of Severus and of the other unclean heretics who were scattered about the country; they delivered many villages and very many churches, and monasteries, too, like good shepherds saving the sheep from the jaws of these evil beasts, and for this reason above others the saintly Patriarch showed special honor to these saintly men. (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of St. John the Almsgiver, 32)

St. John Moschus ca. 550-619

About twenty miles from the city of Aegion in Cilicia there were two stylites located about six miles from each other. One of them was in communion with the holy catholic and apostolic church. The other, who had been the longer time on his column (which was near an estate called Cassiodora) adhered to the Severan sect. The heretical stylite disputed with the orthodox one in various ways, contriving and desiring to win over to his own sect. And having disseminated many words, he seemed to have got the better of him. The orthodox stylite, as though by divine inspiration, intimated that he would like the heretic to send him a portion of his eucharist. The heretic was delighted, thinking that he had led the other astray and he sent the required portion immediately without the slightest delay. The orthodox took the portion which was sent to him by the heretic (the sacrament of the Severan sect, that is) and cast it into a pot which he had brought to a boil before him — it was dissolved by the boiling of the pot. Then he took the holy eucharist of the orthodox church and cast it into the pot. Immediately the pot was cooled. The holy communion remained safe and undampened. He still keeps, for he showed it to us when we visited him. (The Spiritual Meadow 29)

Anastasios, priest and treasurer at the holy Church of the Resurrection of Christ our God told us that Cosmiana, the wife of Germanos the Patrician, came one night, wishing to worship alone at the holy and life-giving sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ, the true God. When she approached the sanctuary, our Lady the holy Mother of God, together with other women, met her in visible form, and said to her: ‘As you are not one of us, you are not to come in here, for you are none of ours.’ The woman was in fact a member of the sect of Severus Acephalos. She begged hard for permission to enter but the holy Mother of God: ‘Believe me, woman, you shall not come in here until you are in communion with us.’ The woman realized that it was because she was a heretic that she was being refused entry; and that nor would she be allowed in until she join the catholic an apostolic church of Christ our God. She sent for the deacon and when the holy chalice arrived, she partook of the holy body and blood of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; and thus she was found worthy to worship unimpeded at the holy and life-giving sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ. (The Spiritual Meadow 48)

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638

Accordingly, by the holy and consubstantial and worshipful Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, let there be anathema and condemnation forever: …Eutyches, Dioscorus, the protector and advocate of Eutyches; Barsumas, Zooras, Timothy called the Cat, Peter the Stammerer, and Acacius who crafted the Kenotikon (*) of Zeno; …Peter the Fuller, who dared to attach the cross to the Trisagion Hymn; another Peter, the defilement of Iberia of barbarian mind, who introduced another headless heresy among the Headless Ones, and Isaiah, the associate of this Peter. With all these, and before all and after all and according to all on behalf of all, let Severus be anathema, their thoroughly mad disciple, who of all the Headless Ones, new and old, is called a most cruel tyrant and a most hostile enemy of the holy catholic church, and a most disgusting seducer; and Theodosius of Alexandria, Anthimus of Trebizond, Jacob the Syrian; Julian of Halicarnassus… (Synodical Letter 2.6.1)

(*) St. Sophronius puns on the title of the Hen-otikon, Zeno’s document of “unity”, by calling it Ken-oticon, an “empty” document or a purgative. Additionally, St. Sophronius’ Synodical Letter was fully endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council: “We have also examined the synodal letter of Sophronius of holy memory, some time Patriarch of the Holy City of Christ our God, Jerusalem, and have found it in accordance with the true faith and with the Apostolic teachings, and with those of the holy approved Fathers. Therefore we have received it as orthodox and as salutary to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and have decreed that it is right that his name be inserted in the diptychs of the Holy Churches.” (Session XIII: Sentence Against the Monothelites)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Severus knavishly says that hypostasis is the same as nature. (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. XCI, Col. 40A.)

Fr. Demetrios Bathrellos comments: For Maximus, the distinction between person/hypostasis, on the one hand, and nature/essence on the other, is indispensible for the articulation of a proper Christology. Severus’ fatal mistake consists precisely in his refusal to distinguish between them, because, without this distinction, it is not possible to denote unity and and distinction in a satisfactory way. Maximus argues that by identifying hypostasis with nature, Severus confuses divinity and humanity. By the same token, by arguing that there is a distinction in the natural qualities too, because, since nature and hypostasis are the same, ‘natural qualities’ equals ‘hypostatic qualities’; thus, for Maximus, Severus falls into Nestorianism (Ep. 15, 568D) (Byzantine Christ, pg. 101)

Nestorius and Severus, therefore, have one aim in their ungodliness, even though the mode is different. For the one, afraid of confusion, flees from the hypostatic union and makes the essential difference a personal division. The other, afraid of division, denies the essential difference and turns the hypostatic union into a natural confusion. It is necessary to confess neither confusion in Christ, nor division, but the union of those that are essentially different, and the difference of those that are hypostatically united, in order that the principle of the essences and the mode of the union might be proclaimed. But they break asunder both of these: Nestorius only confirms a union of gnomic qualities, Severus only confirms the difference of natural qualities after the union, and both of them have missed the truth of things. The one recklessly scribes division to the mystery, the other confusion. (Opuscule 3: 56D)

St. Anastasios the Sinaite died ca. 700

Aristotle says that persons are particular essences; going by this vain rule, Arius said that there were three essences, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Going by this iniquitous definition, Severus said that Christ was one nature formed from two particular essences, that is, separate hypostases. (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. LXXXIX, Col. 108B.)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The Egyptians, who are also called schematics and Mononphysites: separated from the Orthodox Church on the pretext of the document approved at Chalcedon and known as the Tome. They have been called Egyptians, because it was the Egyptians who first started this form of heresy during the reigns of the Emperors Marcian and Valentinian; in every other way they are Orthodox. Because they were attached to Dioscoros of Alexandria, who was deposed by the Synod in Chalcedon for advocating the teachings of Eutyches, they opposed the Synod and fabricated countless charges against it to the best of their ability. We have taken up these charges in this book and sufficiently refuted them, showing them to be clumsy and stupid. Their leaders were Theodosios of Alexandria, from whom derive the Theodosians, and James [Baradaios] of Syria, from whom the Jacobites derive. Privy to them, and supporters and champions, were Severos, the corrupter from Antioch, and John [Philoponos] the Tritheite, who toiled on vain things; they denied the mystery of our common salvation. They wrote many things against the God-inspired teaching of the 630 Fathers of Chalcedon, and laid many snares, so to speak, and “stumbling blocks by the path” (Ps. 139:6) for those who were perishing by their pernicious heresy. Nevertheless, even though they teach that there are particular substances, they confound the mystery of the Incarnation. We considered it necessary to discuss their impiety in brief, adding short notes in refutation of their godless and abominable heresy. I shall set forth the teachings, or rather, ravings, of their champion John, in which they take so much pride. (Concerning Heresies 83)

Dioscorus and Severus and the multitudinous mobs of both accepted that there was one and the same hypostasis, defining in a similar way that there was one nature, ‘not knowing what they say nor understanding what they assert.’ The disease or deception in their mind lay in this, that they conceived nature and hypostasis to be the same. (Greek Fathers of the Church Vol. 4 pg. 346, Thessaloniki: 1990)

…[W]e declare that the addition which the vain-minded Peter the Fuller made to the Trisagium or Thrice Holy Hymn is blasphemous; for it introduces a fourth person into the Trinity, giving a separate place to the Son of God, Who is the truly subsisting power of the Father, and a separate place to Him Who was crucified as though He were different from the Mighty One, or as though the Holy Trinity was considered passible, and the Father and the Holy Spirit suffered on the Cross along with the Son. Have done with this blasphemous and nonsensical interpolation! For we hold the words Holy God to refer to the Father, without limiting the title of divinity to Him alone, but acknowledging also as God the Son and the Holy Spirit: and the words Holy and Mighty we ascribe to the Son, without stripping the Father and the Holy Spirit of might: and the words Holy and Immortal we attribute to the Holy Spirit, without depriving the Father and the Son of immortality. For, indeed, we apply all the divine names simply and unconditionally to each of the subsistences in imitation of the divine Apostle’s words. But to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we in Him: and one Lord Jesus Christ by Whom are all things, and we by Him 1 Cor. 8:5. And, nevertheless, we follow Gregory the Theologian when he says, But to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and one Holy Spirit, in Whom are all things: for the words of Whom and through Whom and in Whom do not divide the natures (for neither the prepositions nor the order of the names could ever be changed), but they characterise the properties of one unconfused nature. And this becomes clear from the fact that they are once more gathered into one, if only one reads with care these words of the same Apostle, Of Him and through Him and in Him are all things: to Him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen Rom. 11:36.

For that the Trisagium refers not to the Son alone , but to the Holy Trinity, the divine and saintly Athanasius and Basil and Gregory, and all the band of the divinely-inspired Fathers bear witness: because, as a matter of fact, by the threefold holiness the Holy Seraphim suggest to us the three subsistences of the superessential Godhead. But by the one Lordship they denote the one essence and dominion of the supremely-divine Trinity. Gregory the Theologian of a truth says , Thus, then, the Holy of Holies, which is completely veiled by the Seraphim, and is glorified with three consecrations, meet together in one lordship and one divinity. This was the most beautiful and sublime philosophy of still another of our predecessors. (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 3.10: Concerning the Trisagion)

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

Countless have been the evils devised by the cunning devil against the race of men, from the beginning up to the coming of the Lord. But even afterwards, he has not ceased through errors and heresies to beguile and deceive those who listen to him. Before our times, the Church, witnessed variously the godless errors of Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, Eutyches, Discorus, and a foul host of others, against which the holy Ecumenical Synods were convened, and against which our holy and God-bearing Fathers battled with the sword of the Holy Spirit. Yet, even after these heresies had been overcome and peace reigned, and from the Imperial Capital the streams of Orthodoxy flowed throughout the world; after some people who had been afflicted by the Monophysite heresy returned to the True Faith because of your holy prayers(Encyclical to the Eastern Patriarchs)

Holy Saints Euphemia, Cyril, Leo, Sophronius and Maximus, pray for us!

Pope St. Gregory’s Christology

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

But we say that the Word was made flesh not by losing what He was, but by taking what He was not. For in the mystery of His Incarnation the Only-begotten of the Father increased what was ours, but diminished not what was His. Therefore the Word and the flesh is one Person, as He says Himself, No man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven Jn. 3:14. He Who is the Son of God in heaven was the Son of man who spoke on earth. Hence John says, We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding 1 Jn. 5:20. And as to what understanding He has given us, he straightway added, That we may know the true God. Whom in this place does he mean as the true God but the Father Almighty? But, as to what he conceives also of the Almighty Son, he added, And that we may be in his true Son Jesus Christ. Lo, he says that the Father is the true God, and that Jesus Christ is His true Son. And what he conceives this true Son to be he shows more plainly; This is the true God, and eternal life. If, then, according to the error of Nestorius the Word were one and the man Jesus Christ were another, he who is true man would not be the true God and eternal life. But the Only-begotten Son, the Word before the Ages, was made man. He is, then, the true God and eternal life. Certainly, when the holy Virgin was about to conceive Him, and heard the angel speaking to her, she said, Behold the hand-maid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word Lk. 1:38. And, when she had conceived Him, and went to Elizabeth her kinswoman, at once she heard, Whence am I worthy that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Lo, the same Virgin is called both the handmaid and the mother of the Lord. For she is the handmaid of the Lord, because the Word before the Ages, the Only-begotten, is equal to the Father; but the mother, because in her womb from the Holy Spirit and of her flesh He was made man. Nor is she the handmaid of one and the mother of another, because, when the Only-begotten of God, existing before the ages, of her womb was made man, by an inscrutable miracle she became both the handmaid of man by reason of the divinity and the mother of the Word by reason of the flesh. It was not that the flesh was first conceived in the womb of the Virgin, and the divinity afterwards came into the flesh; but that as soon as the Word came into the womb, immediately the Word, retaining the excellence of His own nature, was made flesh. And the Only-begotten Son of God, through the womb of the Virgin, was born a perfect man, that is, in verity of flesh and of rational soul. Whence also He is called Anointed above his fellows, as the Psalmist says, God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows Ps. 44:8. For He is anointed with oil, that is to say with the gift of the Holy Spirit. But He was anointed above His fellows, because all we men first exist as sinners, and afterwards are sanctified through the unction of the Holy Spirit. But He Who, existing as God before the ages, was conceived as man through the Holy Spirit in the Virgin’s womb at the end of the ages, was there anointed by the same Spirit, even where He was conceived. Nor was He first conceived and afterwards anointed; but to be conceived by the Holy Spirit of the flesh of the Virgin was itself to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. This truth, then, concerning His nativity let all who are brought back from the perverse error of Nestorius confess before the holy congregation of your Fraternity, anathematising the same Nestorius with all his followers, and all other heresies. The venerable synods also which the universal Church receives let them promise to receive and venerate; and let your Holiness without any hesitation receive them in your assembly, allowing them to retain their own orders, in order that, while you both carefully sift the secrets of their hearts, and teach them through true knowledge the right things they ought to hold, and in gentleness make no difficulty or contradiction with them with respect to their own orders, you may snatch them from the mouth of the ancient foe; and that the retribution of eternal glory with Almighty God may increase to you the more as you gather together many who may glory with you in the Lord without end. Now may the Holy Trinity keep you in its protection while you pray for us, and grant you in its love still more manifold gifts. (Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)

The Life of St. Benedict of Nursia

THE DIALOGUES OF SAINT GREGORY, SURNAMED DIALOGUS AND THE GREAT, POPE OF ROME AND THE FIRST OF THAT NAME.

Divided into Four Books, wherein he entreateth of the Lives and Miracles of the Saints in Italy, and of the Eternity of Men’s Souls.

Translated into our English Tongue by “P. W.” and printed at Paris in 1608. Re-edited by Edmund G. Gardner in 1911, and again by the Saint Pachomius Library in 1995.

The icon was written by Janet Elizabeth Jaime: eleusa@cox.net


THE SECOND BOOK OF THE DIALOGUES, containing the Life and Miracles of St. Benedict (Bennet) of Nursia.


PROLOGUE (spoken by GREGORY):

There was a man of venerable life, blessed by grace, and blessed in name, for he was called “Benedictus” or Bennet: who, from his younger years, carried always the mind of an old man; for his age was inferior to his virtue: all vain pleasure he contemned, and though he were in the world, and might freely have enjoyed such commodities as it yieldeth, yet did he nothing esteem it, nor the vanities thereof. He was born in the province of Nursia, of honourable parentage, and brought up at Rome in the study of humanity. But for as much as he saw many by reason of such learning to fall to dissolute and lewd life, he drew back his foot, which he had as it were now set forth into the world, lest, entering too far in acquaintance therewith, he likewise might have fallen into that dangerous and godless gulf: wherefore, giving over his book, and forsaking his father’s house and wealth, with a resolute mind only to serve God, he sought for some place, where he might attain to the desire of his holy purpose: and in this sort he departed, instructed with learned ignorance, and furnished with unlearned wisdom. All the notable things and acts of his life I could not learn; but those few, which I mind now to report, I had by the relation of four of his disciples: to wit, of Constantinus, a most rare and reverent man, who was next Abbot after him; of Valentinianus, who many years had the charge of the Lateran Abbey; of Simplicius, who was the third General of his order; and lastly of Honoratus, who is now Abbot of that monastery in which he first began his holy life.

CHAPTER ONE: HOW HE MADE A BROKEN SIEVE WHOLE AND SOUND

Bennet having now given over the school, with a resolute mind to lead his life in the wilderness: his nurse alone, which did tenderly love him, would not by any means give him over. Coming, therefore, to a place called Enside and remaining there in the church of St. Peter, in the company of other virtuous men, which for charity lived in that place, it fell so out that his nurse borrowed of the neighbours a sieve to make clean wheat, which being left negligently upon the table, by chance it was broken in two pieces: whereupon she fell pitifully a-weeping, because she had borrowed it. The devout and religious youth Bennet, seeing his nurse so lamenting, moved with compassion, took away with him both the pieces of the sieve, and with tears fell to his prayers; and after he had done, rising up he found it so whole, that the place could not be seen where before it was broken; and coming straight to his nurse, and comforting her with good words, he delivered her the sieve safe and sound: which miracle was known to all the inhabitants thereabout, and so much admired, that the townsmen, for a perpetual memory, did hang it up at the church door, to the end that not only men then living, but also their posterity might understand, how greatly God’s grace did work with him upon his first renouncing of the world. The sieve continued there many years after, even to these very troubles of the Lombards, where it did hang over the church door.

But Bennet, desiring rather the miseries of the world than the praises of men: rather to be wearied with labour for God’s sake, than to be exalted with transitory commendation: fled privily from his nurse, and went into a desert place called Sublacum, distant almost forty miles from Rome: in which there was a fountain springing forth cool and clear water; the abundance whereof doth first in a broad place make a lake, and afterward running forward, cometh to be a river. As he was travelling to this place, a certain monk called Romanus met him, and demanded whither he went, and understanding his purpose, he both kept it close, furthered him what he might, vested him with the habit of holy conversation, and as he could, did minister and serve him.

The man of God, Bennet, coming to this foresaid place, lived there in a strait cave, where he continued three years unknown to all men, except to Romanus, who lived not far off, under the rule of Abbot Theodacus, and very virtuously did steal certain hours, and likewise sometime a loaf given for his own provision, which he did carry to Bennet. And because from Romanus’ cell to that cave there was not any way, by reason of an high rock which did hang over it, Romanus, from the top thereof, upon a long rope, did let down the loaf, upon which also with a band he tied a little bell, that by the ringing thereof the man of God might know when he came with his bread, and so be ready to take it. But the old enemy of mankind, envying at the charity of the one and the refection of the other, seeing a loaf upon a certain day let down, threw a stone and brake the bell; but yet, for all that, Romanus gave not over to serve him by all the possible means he could.

At length when almighty God was determined to ease Romanus of his pains, and to have Bennet’s life for an example known to the world, that such a candle, set upon a candlestick, might shine and give light to the Church of God, our Lord vouchsafed to appear unto a certain Priest dwelling a good way off, who had made ready his dinner for Easter day, and spake thus unto him: “Thou hast provided good cheer for thyself, and my servant in such a place is afflicted with hunger”: who, hearing this forthwith rose up, and upon Easter day itself, with such meat as he had prepared, went to the place, where he sought for the man of God amongst the steep hills, the low valleys and hollow pits, and at length found him in his cave: where, after they had prayed together, and sitting down had given God thanks, and had much spiritual talk, then the Priest said unto him: “Rise up, brother, and let us dine, because today is the feast of Easter.” To whom the man of God answered, and said: “I know that it is Easter with me and a great feast, having found so much favour at God’s hands as this day to enjoy your company” (for by reason of his long absence from men, he knew not that it was the great solemnity of Easter). But the reverent Priest again did assure him, saying: “Verily, to-day is the feast of our Lord’s Resurrection, and therefore meet it is not that you should keep abstinence, and besides I am sent to that end, that we might eat together of such provision as God’s goodness hath sent us.” Whereupon they said grace, and fell to their meat, and after they had dined, and bestowed some time in talking, the Priest returned to his church.

About the same time likewise, certain shepherds found him in that same cave: and at the first, when they espied him through the bushes, and saw his apparel made of skins, they verily thought that it had been some beast: but after they were acquainted with the servant of God, many of them were by his means converted from their beastly life to grace, piety, and devotion. And thus his name in the country there about became famous, and many after this went to visit him, and for corporal meat which they brought him, they carried away spiritual food for their souls.

CHAPTER TWO: HOW HE OVERCAME A GREAT TEMPTATION OF THE FLESH.

Upon a certain day being alone, the tempter was at hand: for a little black bird, commonly called a merle or an ousel, began to fly about his face, and that so near as the holy man, if he would, might have taken it with his hand: but after he had blessed himself with the sign of the cross, the bird flew away: and forthwith the holy man was assaulted with such a terrible temptation of the flesh, as he never felt the like in all his life.

A certain woman there was which some time he had seen, the memory of which the wicked spirit put into his mind, and by the representation of her did so mightily inflame with concupiscence the soul of God’s servant, which did so increase that, almost overcome with pleasure, he was of mind to have forsaken the wilderness. But, suddenly assisted with God’s grace, he came to himself; and seeing many thick briers and nettle bushes to grow hard by, off he cast his apparel, and threw himself into the midst of them, and there wallowed so long that, when he rose up, all his flesh was pitifully torn: and so by the wounds of his body, he cured the wounds of his soul, in that he turned pleasure into pain, and by the outward burning of extreme smart, quenched that fire which, being nourished before with the fuel of carnal cogitations, did inwardly burn in his soul: and by this means he overcame the sin, because he made a change of the fire.

From which time forward, as himself did afterward report unto his disciples, he found all temptation of pleasure so subdued, that he never felt any such thing. Many after this began to abandon the world, and to become his scholars. For being now freed from the vice of temptation, worthily and with great reason is he made a master of virtue: for which cause, in Exodus, commandment is given by Moses that the Levites from five-and-twenty years and upward should serve, but, after they came to fifty, that they should be ordained keepers of the holy vessels. [Numbers 8:24-26]

PETER: Somewhat I understand of this testimony alleged: but yet I beseech you to tell me the meaning thereof more fully.

GREGORY: It is plain, Peter, that in youth the temptation of the flesh is hot: but after fifty years the heat of the body waxeth cold, and the souls of faithful people become holy vessels. Wherefore necessary it is that God’s elect servants, whiles they are yet in the heat of temptation, should live in obedience, serve, and be wearied with labour and pains. But when, by reason of age, the heat of temptation is past, they become keepers of holy vessels; because they then are made the doctors of men’s souls.

PETER: I cannot deny, but that your words have given me full satisfaction: wherefore, seeing you have now expounded the meaning of the former text alleged, prosecute, I pray, as you have begun, the rest of the holy man’s life.

CHAPTER THREE: HOW BENNET, BY THE SIGN OF THE HOLY CROSS, BRAKE A DRINKING-GLASS IN PIECES.

GREGORY: When this great temptation was thus overcome, the man of God, like unto a piece of ground well tilled and weeded, of the seed of virtue brought forth plentiful store of fruit: and by reason of the great report of his wonderful holy life, his name became very famous. Not far from the place where he remained there was a monastery, the Abbot whereof was dead: whereupon the whole Convent came unto the venerable man Bennet, entreating him very earnestly that he would vouchsafe to take upon him the charge and government of their Abbey: long time he denied them, saying that their manners were divers from his, and therefore that they should never agree together: yet at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent.

Having now taken upon him the charge of the Abbey, he took order that regular life should be observed, so that none of them could, as before they used, through unlawful acts decline from the path of holy conversation, either on the one side or on the other: which the monks perceiving, they fell into a great rage, accusing themselves that ever they desired him to be their Abbot, seeing their crooked conditions could not endure his virtuous kind of government: and therefore when they saw that under him they could not live in unlawful sort, and were loath to leave their former conversation, and found it hard to be enforced with old minds to meditate and think upon new things: and because the life of virtuous men is always grievous to those that be of wicked conditions, some of them began to devise, how they might rid him out of the way: and therefore, taking counsel together, they agreed to poison his wine: which being done, and the glass wherein that wine was, according to the custom, offered to the Abbot to bless, he, putting forth his hand, made the sign of the cross, and straightway the glass, that was holden far off, brake in pieces, as though the sign of the cross had been a stone thrown against it: upon which accident the man of God by and by perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death, which could not endure the sign of life: and therefore rising up, with a mild countenance and quiet mind, he called the monks together, and spake thus unto them: “Almighty God have mercy upon you, and forgive you: why have you used me in this manner? Did not I tell you before hand, that our manner of living could never agree together? Go your ways, and seek ye out some other father suitable to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay any longer amongst you.” When he had thus discharged himself, he returned back to the wilderness which so much he loved, and dwelt alone with himself, in the sight of his Creator, who beholdeth the hearts of all men.

PETER: I understand not very well what you mean, when you say that he dwelt with himself.

GREGORY: If the holy man had longer, contrary to his own mind, continued his government over those monks, who had all conspired against him, and were far unlike to him in life and conversation: perhaps he should have diminished his own devotion, and somewhat withdrawn the eyes of his soul from the light of contemplation; and being wearied daily with correcting of their faults, he should have had the less care of himself, and so haply it might have fallen out, that he should both have lost himself, and yet not found them: for so often as by infectious motion we are carried too far from ourselves, we remain the same men that we were before, and yet be not with ourselves as we were before: because we are wandering about other men’s affairs, little considering and looking into the state of our own soul.

For shall we say that he was with himself, who went into a far country, and after he had, as we read in the Gospel, prodigally spent that portion which he received of his father, was glad to serve a citizen, to keep his hogs, and would willingly have filled his hungry belly with the husks which they did eat: who notwithstanding afterward, when he thought with himself of those goods which he had lost, it is written of him that, returning into himself, he said: How many hired men in my father’s house do abound with bread? [Luke 15]

If then, before he were with himself, from whence did he return home unto himself? and therefore I said that this venerable man did dwell with himself, because carrying himself circumspectly and carefully in the sight of his Creator, always considering his own actions, always examining himself, never did he turn the eyes of his soul from himself, to behold aught else whatsoever.

PETER: Why, then, is it written of the Apostle, St. Peter, after he was by the Angel delivered out of prison, that, returning to himself, he said: Now I know verily, that our Lord hath sent his Angel, and hath delivered me from the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. [Acts 12:11]

GREGORY: We are two manner of ways, Peter, carried out of ourselves: for either we fall under ourselves by sinful cogitation, or else we are, by the grace of contemplation, lifted above ourselves: for he that kept hogs, through wandering of his mind and unclean thoughts, fell under himself: but he whom the Angel delivered out of prison, being also rapt by the Angel into an ecstasy, was in truth out of himself, but yet above himself. Both of them, therefore, did return unto themselves; the one when he recollected himself, and forsook his lewd kind of life; and the other from the top of contemplation, to have that usual judgment and understanding, which before he had: wherefore venerable Bennet in that solitary wilderness dwelt with himself, because he kept himself, and retired his cogitations within the closet of his own soul: for when the greatness of contemplation rapt him up aloft, out of all question he did then leave himself under himself.

PETER: Your discourse doth very well content me: yet I beseech you to answer me this question, whether he could in conscience give over those monks, whose government he had now taken upon him?

GREGORY: In mine opinion, Peter, evil men may with good conscience be tolerated in that community, where there be some good that may be holpen, and reap commodity. But where there be none good at all, that receive spiritual profit, often times all labour is lost, that is bestowed in bringing of such to good order, especially if other occasions be offered of doing God presently better service elsewhere: for whose good, then, should the holy man have expected, seeing them all to persecute him with one consent? and (that which is not to be passed over with silence) those that be perfect carry always this mind, that when they perceive their labour to be fruitless in one place, to remove straight to another, where more good may be done.

And for this cause, that notable preacher of the word, who was desirous to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, unto whom to live is Christ, and to die is gain [Phil. 1:21]: and who not only desired himself to suffer persecution, but did also animate and encourage others to suffer the same; yet being himself in persecution at Damascus, got a rope and a basket to pass over the wall, and was privily let down. [Acts 9:25] What then? shall we say that Paul was afraid of death, when as himself said, that he desired it for Christ’s sake? not so: but when he perceived that in that place little good was to be done by great labour, he reserved himself to further labour, where more fruit and better success might be expected: and therefore the valiant soldier of Christ would not be kept within walls, but sought for a larger field where he might more freely labour for his master. And so, in like manner, you shall quickly perceive, if you mark well, that venerable Bennet forsook not so many in one place, that were unwilling to be taught, as he did in sundry other places raise up from the death of soul many more, that were willing to be instructed.

PETER: It is so as you say, and plain reason teacheth it, and the example of St. Paul alleged doth confirm it. But I beseech you to return unto your former purpose, and to prosecute the life of the holy man.

GREGORY: When as God’s servant daily increased in virtue, and became continually more famous for miracles, many were by him in the same place drawn to the service of almighty God, so that by Christ’s assistance he built there twelve Abbeys; over which he appointed governors, and in each of them placed twelve monks, and a few he kept with himself, namely, such as he thought would more profit, and be better instructed by his own presence. At that time also many noble and religious men of Rome came unto him, and committed their children to be brought up under him, for the service of God. Then also Evitius delivered him Maurus, and Tertullius the Senator brought Placidus, being their sons of great hope and towardness: of which two, Maurus, growing to great virtue, began to be his master’s coadjutor; but Placidus, as yet, was but a boy of tender years.

CHAPTER FOUR: HOW BENNET REFORMED A MONK THAT WOULD NOT STAY AT HIS PRAYERS.

In one of the monasteries which he had built in those parts, a monk there was, which could not continue at prayers; for when the other monks knelt down to serve God, his manner was to go forth, and there with wandering mind to busy himself about some earthly and transitory things. And when he had been often by his Abbot admonished of this fault without any amendment, at length he was sent to the man of God, who did likewise very much rebuke him for his folly; yet notwithstanding, returning back again, he did scarce two days follow the holy man’s admonition; for, upon the third day, he fell again to his old custom, and would not abide within at the time of prayer: word whereof being once more sent to the man of God, by the father of the Abbey whom he had there appointed, he returned him answer that he would come himself, and reform what was amiss, which he did accordingly: and it fell so out, that when the singing of psalms was ended, and the hour come in which the monks betook themselves to prayer, the holy man perceived that the monk, which used at that time to go forth, was by a little black boy drawn out by the skirt of his garment; upon which sight, he spake secretly to Pompeianus, father of the Abbey, and also to Maurus saying Do you not see who it is, that draweth this monk from his prayers?” and they answered him, that they did not. “Then let us pray,” quoth he, “unto God, that you also may behold whom this monk doth follow”: and after two days Maurus did see him, but Pompeianus could not.

Upon another day, when the man of God had ended his devotions, he went out of the oratory, where he found the foresaid monk standing idle, whom for the blindness of his heart he strake with a little wand, and from that day forward he was so freed from all allurement of the little black boy, that he remained quietly at his prayers, as other of the monks did: for the old enemy was so terrified, that he durst not any more suggest any such cogitations: as though by that blow, not the monk, but himself had been strooken.

CHAPTER FIVE: OF A FOUNTAIN THAT SPRUNG FORTH IN THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN, BY THE PRAYERS OF THE MAN OF GOD.

Amongst the monasteries which he had built in those parts, three of them were situated upon the rocks of a mountain, so that very painful it was for the monks to go down and fetch water, especially because the side of the hill was so steep that there was great fear of danger: and therefore the monks of those Abbeys with one consent came unto the servant of God, Bennet, giving him to understand, how laborious it was for them daily to go down unto the lake for water: and therefore they added, that it was very necessary to have them removed to some other places. The man of God, comforting them with sweet words, caused them to return back again; and the next night, having with him only the little boy Placidus (of whom we spake before), he ascended up to the rock of that mountain, and continued there a long time in prayer; and when he had done, he took three stones, and laid them in the same place for a mark, and so, none of them being privy to that he had done, he returned back to his own Abbey. And the next day, when the foresaid monks came again about their former business, he said thus unto them: “Go your way to the rock, and in the place where you find three stones laid one upon another, dig a little hole, for almighty God is able to bring forth water in the top of that mountain, and so to ease you of that great labour which you take in fetching it so far.” Away they went, and came to the rock of the mountain according to his direction, which they found as it were sweating drops of water, and after they had with a spade made an hollow place, it was straightways filled, and water flowed out so abundantly, that it doth plentifully, even to this day, spring out and run down from the top to the very bottom of that hill.

CHAPTER SIX: HOW THE IRON HEAD OF A BILL, FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE WATER, RETURNED TO THE HANDLE AGAIN.

At another time, a certain Goth, poor of spirit, that gave over the world, was received by the man of God; whom on a day he commanded to take a bill, and to cleanse a certain plot of ground from briers, for the making of a garden, which ground was by the side of a lake. The Goth as he was there labouring, by chance the head of the bill slipped off, and fell into the water, which was so deep, that there was no hope ever to get it again. The poor Goth, in great fear, ran unto Maurus and told him what he had lost, confessing his own fault and negligence: Maurus forthwith went to the servant of God, giving him to understand thereof, who came straightways to the lake: and took the handle out of the Goth’s hand, and put it into the water, and the iron head by and by ascended from the bottom and entered again into the handle of the bill, which he delivered to the Goth, saying: “Behold here is thy bill again, work on, and be sad no more.”

CHAPTER SEVEN: HOW MAURUS WALKED UPON THE WATER.

On a certain day, as venerable Bennet was, in his cell, the foresaid young Placidus, the holy man’s monk, went out to take up water at the lake, and putting down his pail carelessly, fell in himself after it, whom the water forthwith carried away from the land so far as one may shoot an arrow. The man of God, being in his cell, by and by knew this, and called in haste for Maurus, saying: “Brother Maurus, run as fast as you can, for Placidus, that went to the lake to fetch water, is fallen in, and is carried a good way off.”

A strange thing, and since the time of Peter the Apostle never heard of! Maurus, craving his father’s blessing, and departing in all haste at his commandment, ran to that place upon the water, to which the young lad was carried by force thereof, thinking that he had all that while gone upon the land: and taking fast hold of him by the hair of his head, in all haste he returned back again: and so soon as he was at land, coming to himself he looked behind him, and then knew very well that he had before run upon the water: and that which before he durst not have presumed, being now done and past, he both marvelled, and was afraid at that which he had done.

Coming back to the father, and telling him what had happened, the venerable man did not attribute this to his own merits, but to the obedience of Maurus: but Maurus on the contrary, said that it was done only upon his commandment, and that he had nothing to do in that miracle, not knowing at that time what he did. But the friendly contention proceeding of mutual humility, the young youth himself that was saved from drowning did determine: for he said that he saw when he was drawn out of the water the Abbot’s garment upon his head, affirming that it was he that had delivered him from that great danger.

PETER: Certainly they be wonderful things which you report, and such as may serve for the edification of many : for mine own part, the more that I hear of his miracles, the more do I still desire.

CHAPTER EIGHT: HOW A LOAF WAS POISONED, AND CARRIED FAR OFF BY A CROW.

GREGORY: When as the foresaid monasteries were zealous in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and their fame dispersed far and near, and many gave over the secular life, and subdued the passions of their soul, under the light yoke of our Saviour: then (as the manner of wicked people is, to envy at that virtue which themselves desire not to follow) one Florentius, Priest of a church hardby, and grandfather to Florentius our sub-deacon, possessed with diabolical malice, began to envy the holy man’s virtues, to back-bite his manner of living, and to withdraw as many as he could from going to visit him : and when he saw that he could not hinder his virtuous proceedings, but that, on the contrary, the fame of his holy life increased, and many daily, upon the very report of his sanctity, did betake themselves to a better state of life : burning more and more with the coals of envy, he became far worse; and though he desired not to imitate his commendable life, yet fain he would have had the reputation of his virtuous conversation.

In conclusion so much did malicious envy blind him, and so far did he wade in that sin, that he poisoned a loaf and sent it to the servant of almighty God, as it were for an holy present. The man of God received it with great thanks, yet not ignorant of that which was hidden within. At dinner time, a crow daily used to come unto him from the next wood, which took bread at his hands; coming that day after his manner, the man of God threw him the loaf which the Priest had sent him, giving him this charge: “In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, take up that loaf, and leave it in some such place where no man may find it.” Then the crow, opening his mouth, and lifting up his wings, began to hop up and down about the loaf, and after his manner to cry out, as though he would have said that he was willing to obey, and yet could not do what he was commanded. The man of God again and again bade him, saying: “Take it up without fear, and throw it where no man may find it.” At length, with much ado, the crow took it up, and flew away, and after three hours, having dispatched the loaf, he returned back again, and received his usual allowance from the man of God.

But the venerable father, perceiving the Priest so wickedly bent against his life, was far more sorry for him than grieved for himself. And Florentius, seeing that he could not kill the body of the master, laboureth now what he can, to destroy the souls of his disciples; and for that purpose he sent into the yard of the Abbey before their eyes seven naked young women, which did there take hands together, play and dance a long time before them, to the end that, by this means, they might inflame their minds to sinful lust: which damnable sight the holy man beholding out of his cell, and fearing the danger which thereby might ensue to his younger monks, and considering that all this was done only for the persecuting of himself, he gave place to envy; and therefore, after he had for those abbeys and oratories which he had there built appointed governors, and left some under their charge, himself, in the company of a few monks, removed to another place.

And thus the man of God, upon humility, gave place to the other’s malice; but yet almighty God of justice did severely punish [Florentius’] wickedness. For when the foresaid Priest, being in his chamber, understood of the departure of holy Bennet, and was very glad of that news, behold (the whole house besides continuing safe and sound) that chamber alone in which he was, fell down, and so killed him: which strange accident the holy man’s disciple Maurus understanding, straightways sent him word, he being as yet scarce ten miles off, desiring him to return again, because the Priest that did persecute him was slain; which thing when Bennet heard, he was passing sorrowful, and lamented much: both because his enemy died in such sort, and also for that one of his monks rejoiced thereat; and therefore he gave him penance, for that, sending such news, he presumed to rejoice at his enemy’s death.

PETER: The things you report be strange, and much to be wondered at: for in making the rock to yield forth water, I see Moses; and in the iron, which came from the bottom of the lake, I behold Eliseus; in the walking of Maurus upon the water, I perceive Peter; in the obedience of the crow, I contemplate Elias; and in lamenting the death of his enemy, I acknowledge David: and therefore, in mine opinion, this one man was full of the spirit of all good men.

GREGORY: The man of god, Bennet, had the spirit of the one true God, who, by the grace of our redemption, hath filled the hearts of his elect servants; of whom St. John saith: “He was the true light, which doth lighten every man coming into this world,” [John 1:9]. Of whom, again, we find it written: “Of his fulness we have all received,” [John 1:16]. For God’s holy servants might receive virtues of our Lord, but to bestow them upon others they could not; and therefore it was he that gave the signs of miracles to his servants, who promised to give the sign of Jonas to his enemies [Matt. 12:40]: so that he vouchsafed to die in the sight of the proud, and to rise again before the eyes of the humble: to the end, that they might behold what they contemned, and those see that which they ought to worship and love: by reason of which mystery it cometh to pass that, whereas the proud cast their eyes upon the contempt of his death, the humble contrariwise, against death, lay hold of the glory of his power and might.

PETER: To what places, I pray you, after this, did the holy man go: and whether did he afterward in them work any miracles, or no?

GREGORY: The holy man, changing his place, did not for all that change his enemy. For afterward he endured so much the more grievous battles, by how much he had now the master of all wickedness fighting openly against him. For the town, which is called Cassino, standeth upon the side of an high mountain, which containeth, as it were in the lap thereof, the foresaid town, and afterward so riseth in height the space of three miles, that the top thereof seemeth to touch the very heavens: in this place there was an ancient chapel in which the foolish and simple country people, according to the custom of the old gentiles, worshipped the god Apollo. Round about it likewise upon all sides, there were woods for the service of the devils, in which even to that very time, the mad multitude of infidels did offer most wicked sacrifice. The man of God coming thither, beat in pieces the idol, overthrew the altar, set fire to the woods, and in the temple of Apollo, he built the oratory of St. Martin, and where the altar of the same Apollo was, he made an oratory of St. John: and by his continual preaching, he brought the people dwelling in those parts to embrace the faith of Christ.

The old enemy of mankind, not taking this in good part, did not privily or in a dream, but in open sight present himself to the eyes of that holy father, and with great outcries complained that he had offered him violence. The noise which he made, the monks did hear, but himself they could not see: but, as the venerable father told them, he appeared visibly unto him most fell and cruel, and as though, with his fiery mouth and flaming eyes, he would have torn him in pieces: what the devil said unto him, all the monks did hear; for first he would call him by his name, and because the man of God vouchsafed him not any answer, then would he fall a-reviling and railing at him: for when he cried out, calling him “Blessed Bennet,” and yet found that he gave him no answer, straightways he would turn his tune, and say: “Cursed Bennet, and not blessed: what hast thou to do with me? and why dost thou thus persecute me?” Wherefore new battles of the old enemy against the servant of God are to be looked for, against whom willingly did he make war, but, against his will, did he give him occasion of many notable victories.

CHAPTER NINE: HOW VENERABLE BENNET, BY HIS PRAYER, REMOVED AN HUGE STONE.

Upon a certain day, when the monks were building up the cells of the same Abbey, there lay a stone which they meant to employ about that business: and when two or three were not able to remove it, they called for more company, but all in vain, for it remained so immovable as though it had grown to the very earth: whereby they plainly perceived that the devil himself did sit upon it, seeing so may men’s hands could not so much as once move it: wherefore, finding that their own labours could do nothing, they sent for the man of God, to help them with his prayers against the devil, who hindered the removing of that stone. The holy man came, and after some praying, he gave it his blessing, and then they carried it away so quickly, as though it had been of no weight at all.

CHAPTER TEN: OF THE FANTASTICAL FIRE, WHICH BURNT THE KITCHEN.

Then the man of God thought good that they should presently before his departure dig up the ground in the same place; which being done, and a deep hole made, the monks found there an idol of brass, which being for a little while by chance cast into the kitchen, they beheld fire suddenly to come from it, which to all their sight seemed to set the whole kitchen on fire; for the quenching whereof, the monks by casting on of water made such a noise, that the man of God, hearing it, came to see what the matter was: and himself beholding not any fire at all,which they said that they did, he bowed down his head forthwith to his prayers, and then he perceived that they were deluded with fantastical fire, and therefore bad them bless their eyes, that they might behold the kitchen safe and sound, and not those fantastical flames, which the devil had falsely devised.

CHAPTER ELEVEN: HOW VENERABLE BENNET REVIVED A BOY, CRUSHED TO DEATH WITH THE RUIN OF A WALL.

Again, as the monks were making of a certain wall somewhat higher, because that was requisite, the man of God in the meantime was in his cell at his prayers. To whom the old enemy appeared in an insulting manner, telling him, that he was now going to his monks, that were a-working: whereof the man of God, in all haste, gave them warning, wishing them to look unto themselves, because the devil was at that time coming amongst them. The message was scarce delivered, when as the wicked spirit overthrew the new wall which they were a building, and with the fall slew a little young child, a monk, who was the son of a certain courtier. At which pitiful chance all were passing sorry and exceedingly grieved, not so much for the loss of the wall, as for the death of their brother: and in all haste they sent this heavy news to the venerable man Bennet; who commanded them to bring unto him the young boy, mangled and maimed as he was, which they did, but yet they could not carry him any otherwise than in a sack: for the stones of the wall had not only broken his limbs, but also his very bones. Being in that manner brought unto the man of God, he bad them to lay him in his cell, and in that place upon which he used to pray; and then, putting them all forth, he shut the door, and fell more instantly to his prayers than he used at other times. And O strange miracle! for the very same hour he made him sound, and as lively as ever he was before; and sent him again to his former work, that he also might help the monks to make an end of that wall, of whose death the old serpent thought he should have insulted over Bennet, and greatly triumphed.

CHAPTER TWELVE: HOW BY REVELATION VENERABLE BENNET KNEW THAT HIS MONKS HAD EATEN OUT OF THE MONASTERY.

Among other miracles which the man of God did, he began also to be famous for the spirit of prophecy: as to foretell what was to happen, and to relate unto them that were present, such things as were done in absence. The order of his Abbey was, that when the monks went abroad (to deliver any message) never to eat or drink anything out of their cloister: and this being diligently observed, according to the prescription of their rule, upon a certain day some of the monks went forth upon such business: and being enforced about the dispatch thereof to tarry somewhat long abroad, it fell so out that they stayed at the house of a religious woman, where they did eat and refresh themselves. And being late before they came back to the Abbey, they went as the manner was, and asked their father’s blessing: of whom he demanded where they had eaten: and they said nowhere. “Why do you,” quoth he, “tell an untruth? for did you not go into such a woman’s house? and eat such and such kind of meat, and drink so many cups?” When they heard him recount so in particular, both where they had stayed, what kind of meat they had eaten, and how often they had drunk, and perceived well that he knew all whatsoever they had done, they fell down trembling at his feet, and confessed that they had done wickedly: who straightways pardoned them for that fault, persuading himself that they would not any more in his absence presume to do any such thing, seeing they now perceived that he was present with them in spirit.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: OF THE BROTHER OF VALENTINIAN THE MONK, WHOM THE MAN OF GOD BLAMED FOR EATING IN HIS JOURNEY.

A brother also of Valentinian the monk, of whom I made mention before, was a layman, but devout and religious: who used every year, as well to desire the prayers of God’s servant, as also to visit his natural brother, to travel from his own house to the Abbey: and his manner was, not to eat anything all that day before he came thither. Being therefore upon a time in his journey, he lighted into the company of another that carried meat about him to eat by the way: who, after the day was well spent, spake unto him in this manner: “Come, brother,” quoth he, “let us refresh ourselves, that we faint not in our journey”: to whom he answered: “God forbid: for eat I will not by any means, seeing I am now going to the venerable father Bennet, and my custom is to fast until I see him.” The other, upon this answer, said no more for the space of an hour. But afterward, having travelled a little further again he was in hand with him to eat something: yet then likewise he utterly refused, because he meant to go through fasting as he was. His companion was content, and so went forward with him, without taking anything himself. But when they had now gone very far, and were well wearied with long travelling, at length they came unto a meadow, where there was a fountain, and all such other pleasant things as use to refresh men’s bodies. Then his companion said to him again: “Behold here is water, a green meadow, and a very sweet place, in which we may refresh ourselves and rest a little, that we may be the better able to dispatch the rest of our journey.” Which kind words bewitching his ears, and the pleasant place flattering his eyes, content he was to yield unto the motion, and so they fell to their meat together: and coming afterward in the evening to the Abbey, they brought him to the venerable father Bennet, of whom he desired his blessing. Then the holy man objected against him what he had done in the way, speaking to him in this manner: “How fell it out, brother,” quoth he, “that the devil talking to you, by means of your companion, could not at the first nor second time persuade you: but yet he did at the third, and made you do what best pleased him?” The good man, hearing these words, fell down at his feet, confessing the fault of his frailty; was grieved, and so much the more ashamed of his sin, because he perceived that though he were absent, that yet he did offend in the sight of that venerable father.

PETER: I see well that the holy man had in his soul the spirit of Eliseus, who was present with his servant Giezi, being then absent from him.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: HOW THE DISSIMULATION OF KING TOTILAS WAS DISCOVERED AND FOUND OUT BY VENERABLE BENNET.

GREGORY: You must, good Peter, for a little while be silent, that you may know matters yet far more important. For in the time of the Goths, when Totilas, their king, understood that the holy man had the spirit of prophecy, as he was going towards his monastery, he remained in a place somewhat far off, and beforehand sent the father word of his coming: to whom answer was returned, that he might come at his pleasure. The king, as he was a man wickedly disposed, thought he would try whether the man of God were a prophet, as it was reported, or no. A certain man of his guard he had, called Riggo, upon whom he caused his own shoes to be put, and to be apparelled with his other princely robes, commanding him to go as it were himself to the man of God; and to give the better colour to this device, he sent three to attend upon him, who especially were always about the king: to wit, Vultericus, Rudericus, and Blindinus; charging them that in the presence of the servant of God, they should be next about him, and behave themselves in such sort as though he had been king Totilas indeed: and that diligently they should do unto him all other services, to the end that both by such dutiful kind of behaviour, as also by his purple robes, he might verily be taken for the king himself. Riggo, furnished with that brave apparel, and accompanied with many courtiers, came unto the Abbey: at which time the man of God sat a little way off, and when Riggo was come so near that he might well understand what the man of God said, then, in the hearing of them all, he spake thus: “Put off, my good son, put off that apparel, for that which thou hast on, is none of thine.” Riggo, hearing this, fell straightways down to the ground, and was very much afraid, for presuming to go about to mock so worthy a man, and all his attendants and servitors fell down likewise to the earth, and after they were up again, they durst not approach any nearer to his presence: but returned back to their king, telling him with fear, how quickly they were discovered.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: HOW VENERABLE BENNET PROPHESIED TO KING TOTILAS, AND ALSO TO THE BISHOP OF CAMISINA, SUCH THINGS AS WERE AFTERWARD TO FALL OUT.

Then Totilas himself in person went unto the man of God; and seeing him sitting afar off, he durst not come near, but fell down to the ground: whom the holy man (speaking to him twice or thrice) desired to rise up and at length came unto him, and with his own hands lifted him up from the earth, where he lay prostrate: and then, entering into talk, he reprehended him for his wicked deeds, and in few words told him all that which should befall him, saying: “Much wickedness do you daily commit, and many great sins have you done: now at length give over your sinful life. Into the city of Rome shall you enter, and over the sea shall you pass: nine years shall you reign, and in the tenth shall you leave this mortal life.” The king, hearing these things, was wonderfully afraid, and desiring the holy man to commend him to God in his prayers, he departed: and from that time forward he was nothing so cruel as before he had been. Not long after he went to Rome, sailed over into Sicily, and, in the tenth year of his reign, he lost his kingdom together with his life.

The Bishop also of Camisina used to visit the servant of God, whom the holy man dearly loved for his virtuous life. The Bishop, therefore, talking with him of King Totilas, of his taking of Rome, and the destruction of that city, said: “This city will be so spoiled and ruined by him, that it will never be more inhabited.” To whom the man of God answered: “Rome,” quoth he, “shall not be utterly destroyed by strangers: but shall be so shaken with tempests, lightnings, whirlwinds, and earthquakes, that it will fall to decay of itself.” The mysteries of which prophecy we now behold as clear as the day: for we see before our eyes in this very city, by a strange whirlwind the world shaken, houses ruined, and churches overthrown, and buildings rotten with old age we behold daily to fall down. True it is that Honoratus, by whose relation I had this, saith not that he received it from his own mouth, but that he had it of other monks, which did hear it themselves.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: OF A CERTAIN CLERGYMAN, WHOM VENERABLE BENNET FOR A TIME DELIVERED FROM A DEVIL.

At the same time a certain clergyman, that served in the church of Aquinum, was possessed: whom the venerable man Constantius, Bishop of the same city, sent unto many places of holy martyrs for help: but God’s holy martyrs would not deliver him, to the end that the world might know what great grace was in the servant of God, Bennet: wherefore at length he was brought unto him, who, praying for help to Jesus Christ our Lord, did forthwith cast the old enemy out of the possessed man’s body, giving him this charge: “Go your way, and hereafter abstain from eating of flesh, and presume not to enter into holy orders, for whensoever you shall attempt any such thing, the devil again will have power over you.” The man departed safe and sound, and because punishment fresh in memory useth to terrify the mind, he observed for a time what the man of God had given him in commandment. But after many years, when all his seniors were dead, and he saw his juniors preferred before him to holy orders, he neglected the words of the man of God, as though forgotten through length of time, and took upon him holy orders: whereupon straightways the devil that before had left him entered again, and never gave over to torment him, until he had separated his soul from his body.

PETER: This holy man, as I perceive, did know the secret counsel of God: for he saw that this clergyman was delivered to the power of the devil, to the end he should not presume to enter into holy orders.

GREGORY: Why should he not know the secrets of God, who kept the commandments of God: when as the scripture saith: “He that cleaveth unto our Lord, is one spirit with him?” [1 Cor. 6:17]

PETER: If he that cleaveth unto our Lord, be one spirit with our Lord, what is the meaning of that which the Apostle saith: “Who knoweth the sense of our Lord, or who hath been his counsellor?” [Rom. 11:34], for it seemeth very inconvenient to be ignorant of his sense, to whom being so united he is made one thing.

GREGORY: Holy men, in that they be one with our Lord are not ignorant of his sense: for the same Apostle saith: “For what man knoweth those things which belong to man, but the spirit of man which is in him ? Even so, the things which belong to God, no man knoweth, but the spirit of God.” And to show also that he knew such things as belong to God, he addeth straight after: “But we have not received the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God.” And for this cause, again he saith: “that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor it hath ascended into the heart of man, those things which God hath prepared for them that love him, but God hath revealed to us by his spirit.” [1 Cor. 2:9-12]

PETER: If, then, the mysteries of God were revealed to the same Apostle by the spirit of God, why did he then, entreating of this question, set down these words beforehand, saying: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God: how incomprehensible be his judgments, and his ways investigable?” [Rom. 11:33]

And again, whiles I am thus speaking of this matter, another question cometh to my mind: for the prophet David said to our Lord: “With my lips have I uttered all the judgments of thy mouth,” [Ps. 118 (119):13]. Wherefore, seeing it is less to know, than to utter: what is the reason that St. Paul affirmeth the judgments of God to be incomprehensible; and yet David saith that he did not know only them, but also with his lips pronounce them?

GREGORY: To both these questions I have already briefly answered, when I said that holy men, in that they be one with our Lord, are not ignorant of the sense of our Lord. For all such, as do devoutly follow our Lord, be also by devotion one with our Lord; and yet for all this, in that they are laden with the burthen of their corruptible flesh, they be not with God: and so in that they be joined with him, they know the secret judgments of God, and in that they be separated from God, they know them not: for seeing they do not as yet perfectly penetrate his secret mysteries, they give testimony that his judgments be incomprehensible.

But those that do with their soul adhere unto him, and cleaving unto the sayings of the holy scripture, or to secret revelations, acknowledge what they receive: such persons both know these things and do utter them: for those judgments which God doth conceal they know not, and those which he doth utter they know: and therefore the prophet David, when he had said: “I have with my lips uttered all the judgments;” [Ps. 118(119):13], he addeth immediately, “of thy mouth:” as though he should plainly say: Those judgments I may both know and utter, which I knew thou didst speak, for those things which thou dost not speak, without all question, thou dost conceal from our knowledge.

Wherefore the saying of David and St. Paul agree together: for the judgments of God are incomprehensible; and yet those which himself with his own mouth vouchsafeth to speak, are uttered with men’s tongues: because men may come to the knowledge of them, and being revealed, they may be uttered, and by no means can be kept secret.

PETER: Now I see the answer to my question. But I pray you to proceed, if anything yet remaineth to be told of his virtue and miracles.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: HOW THE MAN OF GOD, BENNET, DID FORETELL THE SUPPRESSION OF ONE OF HIS OWN ABBEYS.

GREGORY: A certain noble man called Theoprobus was by the good counsel of holy Bennet converted: who, for his virtue and merit of life, was very intrinsical and familiar with him. This man upon a day, coming into his cell, found him weeping very bitterly. And having expected a good while, and yet not seeing him to make an end (for the man of God used not in his prayers to weep, but rather to be sad), he demanded the cause of that his so great heaviness, to whom he answered straightway, saying: “All this Abbey which I have built, and all such things as I have made ready for my brethren, are by the judgment of almighty God delivered to the gentiles, to be spoiled and overthrown: and scarce could I obtain of God to have their lives spared, that should then live in it.” His words Theoprobus then heard, but we see them to be proved most true, who know that very Abbey to be now suppressed by the Lombards. For not long since, in the night time, when the monks were asleep, they entered in, and spoiled all things, but yet not one man could they retain there, and so almighty God fulfilled what he promised to his faithful servant: for though he gave them the house and all the goods, yet did he preserve their lives. In which thing I see that Bennet imitated St. Paul: whose ship though it lost all the goods, yet, for his comfort, he had the lives of all that were in his company bestowed upon him, so that no one man was cast away.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: HOW BLESSED BENNET KNEW THE HIDING AWAY OF A FLAGON OF WINE.

Upon a certain time, Exhilaratus our monk, a lay-brother, whom you know, was sent by his master to the monastery of the man of God, to carry him two wooden bottles, commonly called flagons, full of wine: who in the way, as he was going, hid one of them in a bush for himself, and presented the other to venerable Bennet: who took it very thankfully, and, when the man was going away, he gave him this warning: “Take heed, my son,” quoth he, “that thou drinkest not of that flagon which thou hast hidden in the bush: but first be careful to bow it down, and thou shalt find what is within it.” The poor man, thus pitifully confounded by the man of God, went his way, and coming back to the place where the flagon was hidden, and desirous to try the truth of that was told him, as he was bowing it down, a snake straightways leaped forth. Then Exhilaratus perceiving what was gotten into the wine, began to be afraid of that wickedness which he had committed.

CHAPTER NINETEEN: HOW THE MAN OF GOD KNEW THAT ONE OF HIS MONKS HAD RECEIVED CERTAIN HANDKERCHIEFS.

Not far from his Abbey, there was a village, in which very many men had, by the sermons of Bennet, been converted from idolatry to the true faith of Christ. Certain Nuns also there were in the same town, to whom he did often send some of his monks to preach unto them, for the good of their souls. Upon a day, one that was sent, after he had made an end of his exhortation, by the entreaty of the Nuns took certain small napkins, and hid them for his own use in his bosom: whom, upon his return to the Abbey, the man of God very sharply rebuked, saying: “How cometh it to pass, brother, that sin is entered into your bosom ?” At which words the monk was much amazed for he had quite forgotten what he had put there; and therefore knew not any cause why he should deserve that reprehension: whereupon the holy man spake to him in plain terms, and said: “Was not I present when you took the handkerchiefs of the Nuns, and put them up in your bosom for your own private use?” The monk, hearing this, fell down at his feet, and was sorry that he had behaved himself so indiscreetly: forth he drew those napkins from his bosom, and threw them all away.

 CHAPTER TWENTY: HOW HOLY BENNET KNEW THE PROUD THOUGHT OF ONE OF HIS MONKS.

Upon a time, whiles the venerable Father was at supper, one of his monks, who was the son of a great man, held the candle: and as he was standing there, and the other at his meat, he began to entertain a proud cogitation in his mind, and to speak thus within himself: ” Who is he, that I thus wait upon at supper, and hold him the candle? and who am I, that I should do him any such service?” Upon which thought straightways the holy man turned himself, and with severe reprehension spake thus unto him: “Sign your heart, brother, for what is it that you say? Sign your heart”: and forthwith he called another of the monks, and bad him take the candle out of his hands, and commanded him to give over his waiting, and to repose himself: who being demanded of the monks, what it was that he thought, told them, how inwardly he swelled with pride, and what he spake against the man of God, secretly in his own heart. Then they all saw very well that nothing could be hidden from venerable Bennet, seeing the very sound of men’s inward thoughts came unto his ears.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: OF TWO HUNDRED BUSHELS OF MEAL, FOUND BEFORE THE MAN OF GOD’S CELL.

At another time, there was a great dearth in the same country of Campania: so that all kind of people tasted of the misery: and all the wheat of Bennet’s monastery was spent, and likewise all the bread, so that there remained no more than five loaves for dinner. The venerable man, beholding the monks sad, both rebuked them modestly for their pusillanimity, and again did comfort them with this promise: “Why,” quoth he, “are you so grieved in your minds for lack of bread? Indeed, today some want there is, but tomorrow you shall have plenty”: and so it fell out, for the next day two hundred bushels of meal was found in sacks before his cell door, which almighty God sent them: but by whom, or what means, that is unknown to this very day: which miracle when the monks saw, they gave God thanks, and by this learned in want, not to make any doubt of plenty.

PETER: Tell me, I pray you, whether this servant of God had always the spirit of prophecy, when himself pleased, or only at certain times?

GREGORY: The spirit of prophecy doth not always illuminate the minds of the prophets; because, as it is written of the Holy Ghost that “he breatheth where he will” [John 3:8], so we are also to know that he doth breathe likewise for what cause, and when he pleaseth. And hereof it cometh, that when king David demanded of Nathan whether he might build a temple for the honour of God, the prophet Nathan gave his consent; and yet afterward utterly forbad it. From hence likewise it proceedeth that, when Eliseus saw the woman weeping, and knew not the cause, he said to his servant that did trouble her: “Let her alone, for her soul is in grief, and God hath concealed it from me, and hath not told me.” [4 Kings 4:27] Which thing almighty God of great piety so disposeth: for giving at some times the spirit of prophecy, and at other times withdrawing it, he doth both lift up the prophets minds on high, and yet doth preserve them in humility: that by the gift of the Spirit, they may know what they are by God’s grace: and at other times, destitute of the same Spirit, may understand what they are of themselves.

PETER: There is very great reason for that you say. But, I pray you, let me hear more of the venerable man Bennet, if there be anything else that cometh to your remembrance.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: HOW, BY VISION, VENERABLE BENNET DISPOSED THE BUILDING OF THE ABBEY OF TARACINA.

GREGORY: At another time he was desired by a certain virtuous man, to build an Abbey for his monks upon his ground, not far from the city of Taracina. The holy man was content, and appointed an Abbot and Prior, with divers monks under them: and when they were departing, he promised that, upon such a day, he would come and shew them in what place the oratory should be made, and where the refectory should stand, and all the other necessary rooms: and so they, taking his blessing, went their way; and against the day appointed, which they greatly expected, they made all such things ready as were necessary to entertain him, and those that should come in his company. But the very night before, the man of God in sleep appeared to the Abbot and the Prior, and particularly described unto them where each place and office was to be builded. And when they were both risen, they conferred together what either of them had seen in their sleep: but yet not giving full credit to that vision, they expected the man of God himself in person, according to his promise. But when they saw that he came not, they returned back unto him very sorrowfully, saying: “We expected, father, that you should have come according to promise, and told us where each place should have been built, which yet you did not.” To whom he answered: “Why say you so, good brethren? Did not I come as I promised you?” And when they asked at what time it was: “Why,” quoth he, “did not I appear to either of you in your sleep, and appointed how and where every place was to be builded? Go your way, and according to that platform which you then saw, build up the abbey.” At which word they much marvelled, and returning back, they caused it to be builded in such sort as they had been taught of him by revelation.

PETER: Gladly would I learn, by what means that could be done: to wit, that he should go so far to tell them that thing in their sleep, which they should both hear and know by vision.

GREGORY: Why do you, Peter, seek out and doubt, in what manner this thing was done? For certain it is, that the soul is of a more noble nature than the body. And by authority of scripture we know that the prophet Abacuck was carried from Judea with that dinner which he had, and was suddenly set in Chaldea; by which meat the prophet Daniel was relieved: and presently after was brought back again to Judea. If, then, Abacuck could in a moment with his body go so far, and carry provision for another man’s dinner: what marvel is it, if the holy father Bennet obtained grace to go in spirit and to inform the souls of his brethren that were asleep, concerning such things as were necessary: and that as Abacuck about corporal meat went corporally, so Bennet should go spiritually about the dispatch of spiritual business?

PETER: I confess that your words have satisfied my doubtful mind. But I would know what manner of man he was in his ordinary talk and conversation.

 CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: OF CERTAIN NUNS ABSOLVED AFTER THEIR DEATH.

GREGORY: His common talk, Peter, was usually full of virtue: for his heart conversed to above in heaven, that no words could in vain proceed from his mouth. And if at any time he spake aught, yet not as one that determined what was best to be done, but only in a threatening manner, his speech in that case was so effectual and forcible, as though he had not doubtfully or uncertainly, but assuredly pronounced and given sentence.

For not far from his Abbey, there lived two Nuns in a place by themselves, born of worshipful parentage: whom a religious good man did serve for the dispatch of their outward business. But as nobility of family doth in some breed ignobility of mind, and maketh them in conversation to show less humility, because they remember still what superiority they had above others: even so was it with these Nuns: for they had not yet learned to temper their tongues, and keep them under with the bridle of their habit: for often did they by their indiscreet speech provoke the foresaid religious man to anger; who having borne with them a long time, at length he complained to the man of God, and told him with what reproachful words they entreated him: whereupon he sent them by and by this message, saying: “Amend your tongues, otherwise I do excommunicate you”; which sentence of excommunication notwithstanding, he did not then presently pronounce against them, but only threatened if they amended not themselves.

But they, for all this, changed their conditions nothing at all: both which not long after departed this life, and were buried in the church: and when solemn mass was celebrated in the same church, and the Deacon, according to custom, said with loud voice: “If any there be that do not communicate, let them depart”: the nurse, which used to give unto our Lord an offering for them, beheld them at that time to rise out of their graves, and to depart the church. Having often times, at those words of the Deacon, seen them leave the church, and that they could not tarry within, she remembered what message the man of God sent them whiles they were yet alive. For he told them that he did deprive them of the communion, unless they did amend their tongues and conditions. Then with great sorrow, the whole matter was signified to the man of God, who straightways with his own hands gave an oblation, saying: “Go your ways, and cause this to be offered unto our Lord for them, and they shall not remain any longer excommunicate”: which oblation being offered for them, and the Deacon, as he used, crying out, that such as did not communicate should depart, they were not seen any more to go out of the church: whereby it was certain that, seeing they did not depart with them which did not communicate, that they had received the communion of our Lord by the hands of his servant.

PETER: It is very strange that you report: for how could he, though a venerable and most holy man, yet living in mortal body, loose those souls which stood now before the invisible judgment of God?

GREGORY: Was he not yet, Peter, mortal, that heard from our Saviour: “Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in the heavens: and whatsoever thou shalt loose in earth, shall be loosed also in the heavens?” [Matt. 16:19] whose place of binding and loosing those have at this time, which by faith and virtuous life possess the place of holy government: and to bestow such power upon earthly men, the Creator of heaven and earth descended from heaven to earth: and that flesh might judge of spiritual things, God, who for man’s sake was made flesh, vouchsafed to bestow upon him: for from thence our weakness did rise up above itself, from whence the strength of God was weakened under itself.

PETER: For the virtue of his miracles, your words do yield a very good reason.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: OF A BOY THAT AFTER HIS BURIAL WAS CAST OUT OF HIS GRAVE.

GREGORY: Upon a certain day, a young boy that was a monk, loving his parents more than reason would, went from the Abbey to their house, not craving the father’s blessing beforehand: and the same day that he came home unto them, he departed this life. And being buried, his body, the next day after, was found cast out of the grave; which they caused again to be put in, and again, the day following, they found it as before. Then in great haste they went to the man of God, fell down at his feet, and with many tears beseeched him that he would vouchsafe him that was dead of his favour. To whom the man of God with his own hands delivered the holy communion of our Lord’s body, saying: “Go, and lay with great reverence this our Lord’s body upon his breast, and so bury him”: which when they had done, the dead corpse after that remained quietly in the grave. By which you perceive, Peter, of what merit he was with our Lord Jesus Christ, seeing the earth would not give entertainment to his body, who departed this world out of Bennet’s favour.

PETER: I perceive it very well, and do wonderfully admire it.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: HOW A MONK, FORSAKING THE ABBEY, MET WITH A DRAGON IN THE WAY.

GREGORY: A certain monk there was so inconstant and fickle of mind, that he would needs give over the Abbey; for which fault of his, the man of God did daily rebuke him, and often times gave him good admonitions: but yet, for all this, by no means would he tarry amongst them, and therefore continual suit he made that he might be discharged. The venerable man upon a time, wearied with his importunity, in anger bad him depart; who was no sooner out of the Abbey gate, but he found a dragon in the way expecting him with open mouth, which being about to devour him, he began in great fear and trembling to cry out aloud, saying: “Help, help! for this dragon will eat me up.” At which noise the monks running out, dragon they saw none, but finding him there shaking and trembling, they brought him back again to the Abbey, who forthwith promised that he would never more forsake the monastery, and so ever after he continued in his profession: for by the prayers of the holy man, he saw the dragon coming against him, whom before, when he saw not, he did willingly follow.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: HOW HOLY BENNET CURED A BOY OF LEPROSY.

But I must not here pass over with silence that which I had by relation of the honourable man, Anthony, who said that his father’s boy was so pitifully punished with a leprosy, that all his hair fell off, his body swelled, and filthy corruption did openly come forth. Who being sent by his father to the man of God, he was by him quickly restored to his former health.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: HOW BENNET FOUND MONEY MIRACULOUSLY TO RELIEVE A POOR MAN.

Neither is that to be omitted, which one of his disciples called Peregrinus used to tell: for he said that, upon a certain day, an honest man, who was in debt, found no other means to help himself, but thought it his best way to acquaint the man of God with his necessity: whereupon he came to the Abbey, and finding the servant of almighty God, gave him to understand, how he was troubled by his creditor for twelve shillings which he did owe him. To whom the venerable man said that himself had not so much money, yet giving him comfortable words, he said: “Go your ways, and after two days come to me again, for I can not presently help you”: in which two days, after his manner, he bestowed himself in prayer: and when upon the third day the poor man came back there were found suddenly upon the chest of the Abbey, which was full of corn, thirteen shillings: which the man of God caused to be given to him that required but twelve, both to discharge his debt, and also to defray his own charges.

But now will I return to speak of such things as I had from the mouth of his own scholars, mentioned before in the beginning of this book. A certain man there was who had an enemy that did notably spite and malign him, whose damnable hatred proceeded so far that he poisoned his drink, which, although it killed him not, yet did it change his skin in such sort that it was of many colours, as though he had been infected with a leprosy: but the man of God restored him to his former health: for so soon as he touched him, forthwith all that variety of colours departed from his body.

 CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: HOW A CRUET OF GLASS WAS THROWN UPON THE STONES, AND NOT BROKEN.

At such time as there was a great dearth in Campania, the man of God had given away all the wealth of the Abbey to poor people, so that in the cellar there was nothing left but a little oil in a glass. A certain sub-deacon called Agapitus came unto him, instantly craving that he would bestow a little oil upon him. Our Lord’s servant, that was resolved to give away all upon earth that he might find all in heaven, commanded that oil to be given him: but the monk that kept the cellar heard what the father commanded, yet did he not perform it: who inquiring not long after whether he had given that which he willed, the monk told him that he had not, adding that if he had given it away, that there was not any left for the Convent. Then in an anger he commanded others to take that glass with the oil, and to throw it out at the window, to the end that nothing might remain in the Abbey contrary to obedience. The monks did so, and threw it out at a window, under which there was an huge downfall, full of rough and craggy stones upon which the glass did light, but yet continued for all that so sound as though it had never been thrown out at all, for neither the glass was broken nor any of the oil shed. Then the man of God did command it to be taken up again, and, whole as it was, to be given unto him that desired it, and in the presence of the other brethren he reprehended the disobedient monk, both for his infidelity, and also for his proud mind.

 CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: HOW AN EMPTY BARREL WAS FILLED WITH OIL.

After which reprehension, with the rest of his brethren he fell to praying, and in the place where they were, there stood an empty barrel with a cover upon it: and as the holy man continued in his prayers, the oil within did so increase, that the cover began to be lifted up, and at length fell down, and the oil, that was now higher than the mouth of the barrel, began to run over upon the pavement, which so soon as the servant of God, Bennet, beheld, forthwith he gave over his prayers, and the oil likewise ceased to overflow the barrel. Then he did more at large admonish that mistrusting and disobedient monk, that he would learn to have faith and humility, who upon so wholesome an admonition was ashamed, because the venerable father had by miracle shown the power of almighty God, as before he told him when he did first rebuke him: and so no cause there was why any should afterward doubt of his promise, seeing at one and the same time, for a small glass almost empty which he gave away, he bestowed upon them an whole barrel full of oil.

 CHAPTER THIRTY: HOW BENNET DELIVERED A MONK FROM THE DEVIL.

Upon a certain time, as he was going to the oratory of St. John, which is in the top of the mountain, the old enemy of mankind upon a mule, like a physician, met him, carrying in his hand an horn and a mortar. And when he demanded whither he was going: “To your monks,” quoth he, “to give them a drench” [i.e. a large dose of veterinary medicine].

The venerable father went forward to his prayers, and when he had done, he returned in all haste, but the wicked spirit found an old monk drawing of water, into whom he entered, and straightways cast him upon the ground, and grievously tormented him. The man of God coming from his prayers, and seeing him in such pitiful case gave him only a little blow with his hand, and at the same instant he cast out that cruel devil, so that he durst not any more presume to enter in.

PETER: I would gladly know, whether he obtained always by prayer, to work such notable miracles; or else sometimes did them only at his will and pleasure.

GREGORY: Such as be the devout servants of God, when necessity requireth, use to work miracles both manner of ways: so that sometime they effect wonderful things by their prayers, and sometime only by their power and authority: for St. John saith: “So many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God.” [John 1:12] They, then, that by power be the sons of God, what marvel is it, if by power they be able to do wonderful things? And that both ways they work miracles, we learn of St. Peter: who by his prayers did raise up Tabitha; and by his sharp reprehension did sentence Ananias and Sapphira to death for their lying. For we read not, that in the death of them he prayed at all, but only rebuked them for that sin which they had committed. Certain therefore it is that sometimes they do these things by power, and sometimes by prayer: for Ananias and Sapphira by a severe rebuke, St. Peter deprived of life: and by prayer restored Tabitha to life. And for proof of this, I will now tell you of two miracles, which the faithful servant of God, Bennet, did, in which it shall appear most plainly that he wrought the one by that power which God gave him, and obtained the other by virtue of his prayers.

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: OF A COUNTRY FELLOW, THAT, WITH THE ONLY SIGHT OF THE MAN OF GOD, WAS LOOSED FORM HIS BANDS.

A certain Goth there was called Galla, an Arian heretic, who, in the time of King Totilas, did with such monstrous cruelty persecute religious men of the Catholic church, that what priest or monk soever came in his presence, he never departed alive. This man on a certain day, set upon rapine and pillage, pitifully tormented a poor country man, to make him confess where his money and wealth was: who, overcome with extremity of pain, said that he had committed all his substance to the custody of Bennet, the servant of God: and this he did, to the end that his tormentor, giving credit to his words, might at least for a while surcease from his horrible cruelty.

Galla hearing this tormented him no longer: but binding his arms fast with strong cords, drave him before his horse, to bring him unto this Bennet, who, as he said, had his wealth in keeping. The country fellow, thus pinioned and running before him, carried him to the holy man’s Abbey, where he found him sitting before the gate, reading upon a book. Then turning back to Galla that came raging after, he said: “This is father Bennet, of whom I told you”: who looking upon him, in a great fury, thinking to deal as terribly with him as he had with others, cried out aloud to him, saying: “Rise up, sirrah, rise up, and deliver me quickly such wealth as thou hast of this man’s in keeping.”

The man of God, hearing such a noise, straightways lifted up his eyes from reading, and beheld both him and the country fellow; and turning his eyes to his bands, very strangely they fell from his arms, and that so quickly as no man with any haste could have undone them. Galla, seeing him so wonderfully and quickly loosed, fell straight a-trembling, and prostrating himself upon the earth bowed down his cruel and stiff neck to the holy man’s feet, and with humility did commend himself to his prayers. But the venerable man for all this rose not up from his reading, but calling for some of his monks commanded them to have him in, and to give him some meat. And when he was brought back again, he gave him a good lesson, admonishing him not to use any more such rigour and cruel dealing. His proud mind thus taken down, away he went, but durst not demand after that anything of the country fellow, whom the man of God, not with hands, but only with his eyes, had loosed from his bands.

And this is that, Peter, which I told you, that those which in a more familiar sort serve God, do sometime, by certain power and authority bestowed upon them, work miracles. For he that sitting still did appease the fury of that cruel Goth, and unloose with his eyes those knots and cords which did pinion the innocent man’s arms, did plainly shew by the quickness of the miracle, that he had received power to work all that which he did. And now will I likewise tell you of another miracle, which by prayer he obtained at God s hands.

 CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: HOW BY PRAYER VENERABLE BENNET RAISED UP A DEAD CHILD.

Being upon a day gone out with his monks to work in the field, a country man carrying the corpse of his dead son came to the gate of the Abbey, lamenting the loss of his child: and inquiring for holy Bennet, they told him that he was abroad with his monks in the field. Down at the gate he laid the dead body, and with great sorrow of soul ran in haste to seek out the venerable father. At the same time, the man of God was returning homeward from work with his monks: whom so soon as he saw, he [the country man] began to cry out: “Give me my son, give me my son!”

The man of God, amazed at these words, stood still, and said: “What, have I taken away your son?” “No, no,” quoth the sorrowful father, ” but he is dead: come for Christ Jesus’ sake and restore him to life.”

The servant of God, hearing him speak in that manner, and seeing his monks upon compassion to solicit the poor man’s suit, with great sorrow of mind he said: “Away, my good brethren, away: such miracles are not for us to work, but for the blessed Apostles: why will you lay such a burthen upon me, as my weakness cannot bear?” But the poor man, whom excessive grief enforced, would not give over his petition, but swore that he would never depart, except he did raise up his son.

“Where is he, then?” quoth God’s servant.

He answered that his body lay at the gate of the Abbey: to which place when the man of God came with his monks, he kneeled down and lay upon the body of the little child, and rising, he held up his hands towards heaven, and said: “Behold not, O Lord, my sins, but the faith of this man, that desireth to have his son raised to life, and restore that soul to the body, which thou hast taken away.”

He had scarce spoken these words, and behold the soul returned back again, and therewith the child’s body began to tremble in such sort that all which were present did behold it in strange manner to pant and shake. Then he took it by the hand and gave it to his father, but alive and in health. Certain it is, Peter, that this miracle was not in his own power, for which prostrate upon the ground he prayed so earnestly.

PETER: All is most true that before you said, for what you affirmed in words, you have now verified by examples and works. But tell me, I beseech you, whether holy men can do all such things as they please, and obtain at God’s hands whatsoever they desire.

 CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: OF A MIRACLE WROUGHT BY HIS SISTER SCHOLASTICA.

GREGORY: What man is there, Peter, in this world, that is in greater favour with God than St. Paul was: who yet three times desired our Lord to be delivered from the prick of the flesh, and obtained not his petition? Concerning which point also I must needs tell you, how there was one thing which the venerable father Bennet would have done, and yet he could not.

For his sister called Scholastica, dedicated from her infancy to our Lord, used once a year to come and visit her brother. To whom the man of God went not far from the gate, to a place that did belong to the Abbey, there to give her entertainment. And she coming thither on a time according to her custom, her venerable brother with his monks went to meet her, where they spent the whole day in the praises of God and spiritual talk: and when it was almost night they supped together, and as they were yet sitting at the table, talking of devout matters, and darkness came on, the holy Nun his sister entreated him to stay there all night, that they might spend it in discoursing of the joys of heaven. But by no persuasion would he agree unto that, saying that he might not by any means tarry all night out of his Abbey.

At that time, the sky was so clear that no cloud was to be seen. The Nun, receiving this denial of her brother, joining her hands together, laid them upon the table: and so, bowing down her head upon them, she made her prayers to almighty God: and lifting her head from the table, there fell suddenly such a tempest of lightning and thundering, and such abundance of rain, that neither venerable Bennet, nor his monks that were with him, could put their head out of door: for the holy Nun, resting her head upon her hands, poured forth such a flood of tears upon the table, that she drew the clear air to a watery sky, so that after the end of her devotions, that storm of rain followed: and her prayer and the rain did so meet together, that as she lifted up her head from the table, the thunder began, so that in one and the very same instant, she lifted up her head and brought down the rain. The man of God, seeing that he could not by reason of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain return back to his Abbey, began to be heavy and to complain of his sister, saying: “God forgive you, what have you done?” to whom she answered: “I desired you to stay, and you would not hear me, I have desired our good Lord, and he hath vouchsafed to grant my petition: wherefore if you can now depart, in God’s name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone.”

But the good father, being not able to go forth, tarried there against his will, where willingly before he would not stay. And so by that means they watched all night, and with spiritual and heavenly talk did mutually comfort one another: and therefore by this we see, as I said before, that he would have had that thing, which yet he could not: for if we respect the venerable man’s mind, no question but he would have had the same fair weather to have continued as it was, when he set forth, but he found that a miracle did prevent his desire, which, by the power of almighty God, a woman’s prayers had wrought. And it is not a thing to be marvelled at, that a woman which of long time had not seen her brother, might do more at that time than he could, seeing, according to the saying of St. John, “God is charity” [1 John 4:8] and therefore of right she did more which loved more.

PETER: I confess that I am wonderfully pleased with that which you tell me.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: HOW BENNET SAW THE SOUL OF HIS SISTER ASCEND INTO HEAVEN.

GREGORY: The next day the venerable woman returned to her Nunnery, and the man of God to his Abbey: who three days after, standing in his cell, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, beheld the soul of his sister (which was departed from her body), in the likeness of a dove to ascend into heaven: who rejoicing much to see her great glory, with hymns and lauds gave thanks to almighty God, and did impart the news of this her death to his monks, whom also he sent presently to bring her corpse to his Abbey, to have it buried in that grave which he had provided for himself: by means whereof it fell out that, as their souls were always one in God whiles they lived, so their bodies continued together after their death.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE: HOW HE SAW THE WHOLE WORLD REPRESENTED BEFORE HIS EYES; AND ALSO THE SOUL OF GERMANUS, BISHOP OF CAPUA, ASCENDING TO HEAVEN.

At another time, Servandus, the Deacon, and Abbot of that monastery, which in times past was founded by the noble man Liberius in the country of Campania, used ordinarily to come and visit the man of God: and the reason why he came so often was, because himself also was a man full of heavenly doctrine: and so they two had often together spiritual conference, to the end that, albeit they could not perfectly feed upon the celestial food of heaven, yet, by means of such sweet discourses, they might at least, with longing and fervent desire, taste of those joys and divine delights. When it was time to go to rest, the venerable Father Bennet reposed himself in the top of a tower, at the foot whereof Servandus the Deacon was lodged, so that one pair of stairs went to them both: before the tower there was a certain large room in which both their disciples did lie.

The man of God, Bennet, being diligent in watching, rose early up before the time of matins (his monks being yet at rest) and came to the window of his chamber, where he offered up his prayers to almighty God. Standing there, all on a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light, which banished away the darkness of the night, and glittered with such brightness, that the light which did shine in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as himself did afterward report, the whole world, gathered as it were together under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes, and whiles the venerable father stood attentively beholding the brightness of that glittering light, he saw the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe to be carried up by Angels into heaven.

Then, desirous to have some witness of this so notable a miracle, he called with a very loud voice Servandus the Deacon twice or thrice by his name, who, troubled at such an unusual crying out of the man of God, went up in all haste, and looking forth saw not anything else, but a little remnant of the light, but wondering at so great a miracle, the man of God told him all in order what he had seen, and sending by and by to the town of Cassino, he commanded the religious man Theoprobus to dispatch one that night to the city of Capua, to learn what was become of Germanus their Bishop: which being done, the messenger found that reverent Prelate departed this life, and enquiring curiously the time, he understood that he died at that very instant, in which the man of God beheld him ascending up to heaven.

PETER: A strange thing and very much to be admired. But whereas you say that the whole world, as it were under one sunbeam, was presented before his eyes, as I must needs confess that in myself I never had experience of any such thing, so neither can I conceive by what means the whole world can be seen of any one man.

GREGORY: Assure yourself, Peter, of that which I speak: to wit, that all creatures be as it were nothing to that soul which beholdeth the Creator: for though it see but a glimpse of that light which is in the Creator, yet very small do all things seem that be created: for by means of that supernatural light, the capacity of the inward soul is enlarged, and is in God so extended, that it is far above the world: yea and the soul of him that seeth in this manner, is also above itself; for being rapt up in the light of God, it is inwardly in itself enlarged above itself, and when it is so exalted and looketh downward, then doth it comprehend how little all that is, which before in former baseness it could not comprehend. The man of God, therefore, who saw the fiery globe, and the Angels returning to heaven, out of all doubt could not see those things but in the light of God: what marvel, then, is it, if he saw the world gathered together before him, who, rapt up in the light of his soul, was at that time out of the world? But albeit we say that the world was gathered together before his eyes, yet were not heaven and earth drawn into any lesser room than they be of themselves, but the soul of the beholder was more enlarged, which, rapt in God, might without difficulty see that which is under God, and therefore in that light which appeared to his outward eyes, the inward light which was in his soul ravished the mind of the beholder to supernal things, and shewed him how small all earthly things were.

PETER: I perceive now that it was to my more profit that I understood you not before: seeing, by reason of my slow capacity, you have delivered so notable an exposition. But now, because you have made me thrughly to understand these things, I beseech you to continue on your former narration.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: HOW HOLY BENNET WROTE A RULE FOR HIS MONKS.

GREGORY. Desirous I am, Peter, to tell you many things of this venerable father, but some of purpose I let pass, because I make haste to entreat also of the acts of other holy men: yet I would not have you to be ignorant, but that the man of God amongst so many miracles, for which he was so famous in the world, was also sufficiently learned in divinity: for he wrote a rule for his monks, both excellent for discretion and also eloquent for the style. Of whose life and conversation, if any be curious to know further, he may in the institution of that rule understand all his manner of life and discipline: for the holy man could not otherwise teach, than himself lived.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN: HOW VENERABLE BENNET DID PROPHESY TO HIS MONKS THE TIME OF HIS OWN DEATH.

The same year in which he departed this life, he told the day of his holy death to his monks, some of which did live daily with him, and some dwelt far off, willing those that were present to keep it secret, and telling them that were absent by what token they should know that he was dead. Six days before he left this world, he gave order to have his sepulchre opened, and forthwith falling into an ague, he began with burning heat to wax faint, and when as the sickness daily increased, upon the sixth day he commanded his monks to carry him into the oratory, where he did arm himself with receiving the body and blood of our Saviour Christ; and having his weak body holden up betwixt the hands of his disciples, he stood with his own lifted up to heaven, and as he was in that manner praying, he gave up the ghost. Upon which day two monks, one being in his cell, and the other far distant, had concerning him one and the self-same vision: for they saw all the way from the holy man’s cell, towards the east even up to heaven, hung and adorned with tapestry, and shining with an infinite number of lamps, at the top whereof a man, reverently attired, stood and demanded if they knew who passed that way, to whom they answered saying, that they knew not. Then he spake thus unto them: “This is the way,” quoth he, “by which the beloved servant of God, Bennet, is ascended up to heaven.” And by this means, as his monks that were present knew of the death of the holy man, so likewise they which were absent, by the token which he foretold them, had intelligence of the same thing. Buried he was in the oratory of St. John Baptist which himself built, when he overthrew the altar of Apollo; who also in that cave in which he first dwelled, even to this very time, worketh miracles, if the faith of them that pray requireth the same.

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT: HOW A MAD WOMAN WAS CURED IN HIS CAVE.

For the thing which I mean now to rehearse fell out lately. A certain woman falling mad, lost the use of reason so far, that she walked up and down, day and night, in mountains and valleys, in woods and fields, and rested only in that place where extreme weariness enforced her to stay. Upon a day it so fell out, that albeit she wandered at random, yet she missed not the right way: for she came to the cave of the blessed man Bennet: and not knowing anything, in she went, and reposed herself there that night, and rising up in the morning, she departed as sound in sense and well in her wits, as though she had never been distracted in her whole life, and so continued always after, even to her dying day.

PETER: What is the reason that in the patronage of martyrs we often times find, that they do not afford so great benefit by their bodies, as they do by other of their relics: and do there work greater miracles, where themselves be not present?

GREGORY: Where the holy martyrs lie in their bodies, there is no doubt, Peter, but that they are able to work many miracles, yea and also do work infinite, to such as seek them with a pure mind. But for as much as simple people might have some doubt whether they be present, and do in those places hear their prayers where their bodies be not, necessary it is that they should in those places shew greater miracles, where weak souls may most doubt of their presence.

But he whose mind is fixed in God, hath so much the greater merit of his faith in that he both knoweth that they rest not there in body, and yet be there present to hear our prayers. And therefore our Saviour himself, to increase the faith of his disciples, said: “If I do not depart, the Comforter will not come unto you,” [John 16:7]: for, seeing certain it is that the comforting Spirit doth always proceed from the Father and the Son, why doth the Son say that he will depart that the Comforter may come, who never is absent from the Son? But because the disciples, beholding our Lord in flesh, did always desire to see him with their corporal eyes, very well did he say unto them: “Unless I do go away, the Comforter will not come:” as though he had plainly told them: If I do not withdraw my body, I cannot let you understand what the love of the spirit is: and except you give over [cease] to love my carnal presence, never will you learn to affect me with true spiritual love.

PETER: That you say pleaseth me very well.

GREGORY: Let us now for a while give over our discourse, to the end that if we mean to prosecute the miracles of other Saints, we may through silence be the more able to perform it.

The end of the Second Book


THE SAINT PACHOMIUS ORTHODOX LIBRARY This document is in the public domain. Copying it is encouraged.

Have mercy, O Lord, on Thy servants the translator P.W., the editor Edmund, and the scribes Boris, Deborah, Demetrios, Edward, Gerald, Jeff, Larry, Mary, Matthew, Paul, Robert, Steven, Susan, Timothy, and Walter.

Pope St. Gregory on the Reception of Converts

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Gregory to Quiricus, Bishop, and the other Catholic bishops in Hiberia .

Since to charity nothing is afar off, let those who are divided in place be joined by letter. The bearer of these presents, coming to the Church of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, asserted that he had received letters for us from your Fraternity, and had lost them, with other things also, in the city of Jerusalem. In them, as he says, you were desirous of enquiring with regard to priests and people who have been bewildered in the error of Nestorian heresy, when they return to the Catholic Church which is the mother of all the elect, whether they should be baptized, or joined to the bowels of the same mother Church by confession only of the one true faith.

And indeed we have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that whosoever among heretics are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to holy Church, may be recalled to the bosom of mother Church either by unction of chrism, or by imposition of hands, or by profession of the faith only. Hence the West reconciles Arians to the holy Catholic Church by imposition of hands, but the East by the unction of holy chrism. But Monophysites and others are received by a true confession only, because holy baptism, which they have received among heretics, then acquires in them the power of cleansing, when either the former receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands, or the latter are united to the bowels of the holy and universal Church by reason of their confession of the true faith. Those heretics, however, who are not baptized in the name of the Trinity, such as the Bonosiaci and the Cataphrygæ, because the former do not believe in Christ the Lord, and the latter with a perverse understanding believe a certain bad man, Montanus, to be the Holy Spirit, like whom are many others—these, when they come to holy Church, are baptized, because what they received while in their error, not being in the name of the Holy Trinity, was not baptism. Nor can this be called an iteration of baptism, which, as has been said, had not been given in the name of the Trinity. But the Nestorians, since they are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity— though darkened by the error of their heresy in that, after the manner of Jewish unbelief, they believe not the Incarnation of the Only-begotten— when they come to the Holy Catholic Church, are to be taught, by firm holding and profession of the true faith, to believe in one and the same Son of God and man, our Lord God Jesus Christ, the same existing in Divinity before the ages, and the same made man in the end of the ages, because The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us Jn. 1:14. (Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)

 

On Angels and Angles

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Nor is the account of St. Gregory, which has been handed down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, to be passed by in silence, in relation to his motives for taking such interest in the salvation of our nation. It is reported, that some merchants, having just arrived at Rome on a certain day, exposed many things for sale in the marketplace, and abundance of people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and, among other things, some boys were set to sale, their bodies white, their countenances beautiful, and their hair very fine. Having viewed them, he asked, as is said, from what country or nation they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were of such personal appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism? and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness is possessed of men of such fair countenances; and that being remarkable for such graceful aspects, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, for they have an Angelic face, and it becomes such to be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name,” proceeded he, “of the province from which they are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. “Truly are they De ira,” said he, “withdrawn from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province called?” They told him his name was Ælla: and he, alluding to the name said, “Hallelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.”

Then repairing to the bishop of the Roman apostolical see (for he was not himself then made pope), he entreated him to send some ministers of the word into Britain to the nation of the English, by whom it might be converted to Christ; declaring himself ready to undertake that work, by the assistance of God, if the apostolic pope should think fit to have it so done. Which not being then able to perform, because, though the pope was willing to grant his request, yet the citizens of Rome could not be brought to consent that so noble, so renowned, and so learned a man should depart the city; as soon as he was himself made pope, he perfected the long-desired work, sending other preachers, but himself by his prayers and exhortations assisting the preaching, that it might be successful. This account, as we have received it from the ancients, we have thought fit to insert in our Ecclesiastical History. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. 2.1)

St. Gregory the Dialogist and Emperor Trajan

In the time that Trajan the emperor reigned, and on a time as he went toward a battle out of Rome, it happed that in his way as he should ride, a woman, a widow, came to him weeping and said I pray thee, sire, that thou avenge the death of one my son which innocently and without cause hath been slain. The emperor answered: If I come again from the battle whole and sound then I shall do justice for the death of thy son. Then said the widow: Sire, and if thou die in the battle who shall then avenge his death? And the emperor said: He that shall come after me. And the widow said: Is it not better that thou do to me justice and have the merit thereof of God than another have it for thee? Then had Trajan pity and descended from his horse and did justice in avenging the death of her son. On a time Saint Gregory went by the market of Rome which is called the market of Trajan, and then he remembered of the justice and other good deeds of Trajan, and how he had been piteous and debonair, and was much sorrowful that he had been a pagan, and he turned to the church of Saint Peter wailing for the horror of the miscreance of Trajan. Then answered a voice from God saying: I have now heard thy prayer, and have spared Trajan from the pain perpetual. By this, as some say, the pain perpetual due to Trajan as a miscreant was some deal taken away, but for all that was not he quit from the prison of hell, for the soul may well be in hell and feel there no pain by the mercy of God. (The Life of St. Gregory the Pope)

On The Importance of Godly Upbringing

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Neither must that be forgotten, which the servant of God before mentioned, called Probus, used to tell of a little sister which he had, called Musa: for he said that one night our blessed Lady appeared unto her in vision, shewing her sundry young maids of her own years, clothed all in white: whose company she much desiring, but yet not presuming to go amongst them, the Blessed Virgin asked her whether she had any mind to remain with them, and to live in her service: to whom she answered that willingly she would. Then our blessed Lady gave her in charge, not to behave herself lightly, nor to live any more like a girl, to abstain also from laughing and pastime, telling her that after thirty days she should, amongst those virgins which she then saw, be admitted to her service. After this vision, the young maid forsook all her former behaviour: and with great gravity reformed the levity of her childish years: which thing her parents perceiving, and demanding from whence that change proceeded, she told them what the blessed Mother of God had given her in commandment, and upon what day she was to go unto her service. Five and twenty days after, she fell sick of an ague; and upon the thirtieth day, when the hour of her departure was come, she’ beheld our blessed Lady, accompanied with those virgins which before in vision she saw to come unto her, and being called to come away, she answered with her eyes modestly cast downward, and very distinctly spake in this manner: “Behold, blessed Lady, I come, behold, blessed Lady, I come”: in speaking of which words she gave up the ghost, and her soul departed her virgin’s body, to dwell for ever with the holy virgins in heaven.

PETER. Seeing mankind is subject to many and innumerable vices, I think that the greatest part of heaven is replenished with little children and infants.

GREGORY. Although we ought not to doubt, but believe that all infants which be baptized, and die in their infancy, go to heaven; yet no point of our belief it is, that all little ones which can speak do come unto that holy place: because some little children are kept from heaven by their parents, which bring them up wickedly and in lewd life. For a certain man in this city, well known to all, some three years since had a child, as I think five years old, which upon too much carnal affection he brought up very carelessly: in such sort that the little one (a lamentable case to speak of) so soon as anything went contrary to his mind, straightways used to blaspheme the name of God.

This child, in that great mortality which happened three years since, fell sick, and came to the point of death: and his father holding him at that time in his arms, the child (as they say, which were then present) beheld with trembling eyes certain wicked spirits coming towards him: at which sight he began to cry out in this manner: “Keep them away, father, keep them away”: and crying so out, he turned away his face, and would have hid himself in his father’s bosom: who demanding why he was so afraid, and what he saw: “O father,” quoth he, “there be blackamoors come to carry me away “: after which words straightways he blasphemed God, and so gave up the ghost. For to the end God might make it known to the world for what sin he was delivered to such terrible executioners, he permitted him at his very death to iterate that sin, for which his father, whiles he lived, would not correct him: so that he which through God’s patience had long lived a blasphemer, did at length, by his just judgment, blaspheming end his life, that the father might both know his own sin, and also how, by neglecting the soul of his little son, he nourished and brought up not a little sinner for hell fire. But now to surcease from further speech of this sad and melancholy matter, let us prosecute, as we have begun, our former joyful narration. (Dialogues Bk. IV:17-18)

On the Death of the Saints

Wis 3:1 But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.

Abba Sisoes ca. 4th-5th cent.

It was said of Abba Sisoes that when he was at the point of death, while the Fathers were sitting beside him, his face shone like the sun. He said to them, ‘Look, Abba Anthony is coming.’ A little later he said, ‘Look, the choir of prophets is coming.’ Again his countenance shone with brightness and he said, ‘Look, the choir of apostles is coming.’ His countenance increased in brightness and lo, he spoke with someone. Then the old men ask him, ‘With whom are you speaking, Father?’ He said, ‘Look, the angels are coming to fetch me, and I am begging them to let me do a little penance.’ The old man said to him, ‘You have no need to do penance, Father.’ But the old man said to him, ‘Truly, I do not think I have even made a beginning yet.’ Now they all knew that he was perfect. Once more his countenance suddenly became like the sun and they were all filled with fear. He said to them, ‘Look, the Lord is coming and He’s saying, “Bring me the vessel from the desert.”’ Then there was as a flash of lightning and all the house was filled with a sweet odour. (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: Sisoes, Saying 14)

St.Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Neither must I forget that which the reverent Abbot Stephen (who not long since died in this city, and whom you knew very well) told me to have happened in the same province of Nursia. For he said that a Priest dwelt in that country, who in the fear of God governed the church committed to his charge: and although, after he had taken orders, he did still love his old wife as his sister, yet did he avoid her as his enemy: and never would he permit her to come near him upon any occasion, abstaining wholly from all intercourse of familiarity. For this is a thing proper to holy men, oftentimes to deprive themselves of those things which be lawful, to the end they may remain the more free from such as be unlawful: and therefore this man, not to fall into any sin, utterly refused all necessary and requisite service at her hands.

When this reverent man had long lived in this world, the fortieth year after he was made priest, by a great and vehement ague [he] was brought to the last cast: his old wife, beholding him so far spent, and to lie as though he had been dead, put her head near unto him, to see whether he did breathe or no: which he perceiving, having yet a little life left, enforced himself to speak as well as he could, and in great fervour of spirit brake out into these words: “Get thee away, woman: a little fire is yet left, away with the straw.” After she was gone, his strength somewhat increasing, he began with great joy to cry out: “Welcome, my Lords, welcome, my Lords: why have you vouchsafed to visit me, your unworthy servant? I come, I come: I thank you, I thank you”: and when he did often repeat these and the like words, his friends that were present asked him to whom he spake, to whom with a kind of admiration he answered: “What? do you not here behold the holy Apostles? Do you not see the chief of them, St. Peter and St. Paul?” And so, turning himself again towards them, he said: “Behold I come, behold I come”: and in speaking those words, he gave up his happy ghost. And that he did indeed verily behold the holy Apostles, he testified by that his departure with them. And thus it doth often fall out, by the sweet providence of God, that good men at their death do behold his Saints going before them, and leading as it were the way, to the end they should not be afraid at the pangs thereof; and that whiles their souls do see the Saints in heaven, they may be discharged from the prison of this body, without all fear and grief. (Dialogues Bk. IV.11)

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Icons

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Furthermore we notify to you that it has come to our ears that your Fraternity, seeing certain adorers of images, broke and threw down these same images in Churches. And we commend you indeed for your zeal against anything made with hands being an object of adoration; but we signify to you that you ought not to have broken these images. For pictorial representation is made use of in Churches for this reason; that such as are ignorant of letters may at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books. Your Fraternity therefore should have both preserved the images and prohibited the people from adoration of them, to the end that both those who are ignorant of letters might have wherewith to gather a knowledge of the history, and that the people might by no means sin by adoration of a pictorial representation. (Bk. 9, Epistle 105: To Serenus Bishop of Massilia [Marseilles])

On the Intermediate State of the Blessed

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604 
 
GREGORY. This thing, speaking generally of all just men, can neither be affirmed nor denied: for the souls of some just men, remaining as yet in certain mansions, be deferred from heaven; by which stay of theirs, what else do we learn, but that they lacked somewhat of perfect justice? And yet is it more clear than day that the souls of them that be perfect, do, straight after death, possess the joys of heaven: the truth whereof Christ himself assureth us, when he saith: Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will the eagles be gathered together; for where our Saviour is present in body, thither, without all question, do the souls of just men assemble themselves; and St. Paul saith: I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ. He, therefore, that doubteth not Christ to be in heaven, how can he doubt that St. Paul’s soul is in the same place? which Apostle speaketh also of the dissolution of his body, and his dwelling in heaven in these words: We know that if our terrestrial house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have a building of God; an house not made with hands, but everlasting in heaven.

PETER. If just men’s souls be already in heaven: what then shall they receive for a reward of their virtuous and just life at the day of judgment?

GREGORY. Whereas now their souls be only in heaven, at the day of judgment this further increase of joy shall they have, that their bodies also shall be partakers of eternal bliss, and they shall in their flesh receive joy: in which, for Christ’s sake, they suffered grief and torments. In respect of this their double glory, the scripture saith: In their land, they shall possess double things; and it is written of the souls of the just, that, before the day of resurrection: To every one of them white stoles were given; and it was said to them: that they should rest yet a little time, until the number of their fellow-servants and brethren were complete. They, therefore, that now receive but one stole, in the day of judgment shall every one have two: because now they rejoice only for the felicity of their souls, but then shall they enjoy the endless glory of body and soul together. (Dialogues Bk. 4.25)

St. Benedict Beholds the Entire Cosmos

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604
 
The man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose early up before the time of matins (his monks being yet at rest) and came to the window of his chamber, where he offered up his prayers to almighty God. Standing there, all on a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light, which banished away the darkness of the night, and glittered with such brightness, that the light which did shine in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as himself did afterward report, the whole world, gathered as it were together under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes, and whiles the venerable father stood attentively beholding the brightness of that glittering light, he saw the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe to be carried up by Angels into heaven.
 
Then, desirous to have some witness of this so notable a miracle, he called with a very loud voice Servandus the Deacon twice or thrice by his name, who, troubled at such an unusual crying out of the man of God, went up in all haste, and looking forth saw not anything else, but a little remnant of the light, but wondering at so great a miracle, the man of God told him all in order what he had seen, and sending by and by to the town of Cassino, he commanded the religious man Theoprobus to dispatch one that night to the city of Capua, to learn what was become of Germanus their Bishop: which being done, the messenger found that reverent Prelate departed this life, and enquiring curiously the time, he understood that he died at that very instant, in which the man of God beheld him ascending up to heaven.
 
PETER: A strange thing and very much to be admired. But whereas you say that the whole world, as it were under one sunbeam, was presented before his eyes, as I must needs confess that in myself I never had experience of any such thing, so neither can I conceive by what means the whole world can be seen of any one man.
 
GREGORY: Assure yourself, Peter, of that which I speak: to wit, that all creatures be as it were nothing to that soul which beholdeth the Creator: for though it see but a glimpse of that light which is in the Creator, yet very small do all things seem that be created: for by means of that supernatural light, the capacity of the inward soul is enlarged, and is in God so extended, that it is far above the world: yea and the soul of him that seeth in this manner, is also above itself; for being rapt up in the light of God, it is inwardly in itself enlarged above itself, and when it is so exalted and looketh downward, then doth it comprehend how little all that is, which before in former baseness it could not comprehend. The man of God, therefore, who saw the fiery globe, and the Angels returning to heaven, out of all doubt could not see those things but in the light of God: what marvel, then, is it, if he saw the world gathered together before him, who, rapt up in the light of his soul, was at that time out of the world? But albeit we say that the world was gathered together before his eyes, yet were not heaven and earth drawn into any lesser room than they be of themselves, but the soul of the beholder was more enlarged, which, rapt in God, might without difficulty see that which is under God, and therefore in that light which appeared to his outward eyes, the inward light which was in his soul ravished the mind of the beholder to supernal things, and shewed him how small all earthly things were. (St. Gregory the Diaologist: Dialogues, Second Dialogue [Life of St. Benedict]. Chap. 35)

On Holy Chrism

In the Orthodox Church, the Holy Chrism is sanctified for use in the celebration of the sacrament of Chrismation. It is a visible sign of the transmission of gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who are baptized.

During the early years of Christianity, the transmission of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the baptized were given by the Apostles through the “laying of hands.” It is stated in the Scriptures that, “Now when the Apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands upon them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14‑17, R.S.V.)

When the Church spread throughout the world and the number of the baptized was greatly increased, it was not possible to continue the practice of Samaria. Consequently, the Apostles introduced the use of the sanctified Chrism. The Holy Chrism was sanctified by the Apostles and was continued thereafter by the bishops through the Apostolic Succession. The “laying on of hands” was completely replaced by the Holy Chrism to transmit gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The use of the Holy Chrism was introduced to the Christian Church from the existing Old Testament practice. It is stated that, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take the finest spices ‑‑ 12 pounds of liquid myrrh, 6 pounds of sweet‑smelling cinnamon, 6 pounds of sweet cane, and 12 pounds of cassia (all weighted according to official standard). Add one gallon of olive oil, and make a sacred anointing oil, mixed like perfume.”’ (Exodus 30:22‑25) (Excerpted from “The Sanctification of the Holy Chrism” by Pavlos Menesoglou)

Deut. 34:9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.
 
1Sam. 16:12-13 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward…
 
Acts 8:14-19 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
 
Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
 
Acts 19:1-6 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
 
Theophilus of Antioch fl. ca. 170

And about your laughing at me and calling me “Christian,” you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first caulked [anointed]? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God. (To Autolycus 1.12)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

After this, when we have issued from the font, we are thoroughly anointed with a blessed unction,–a practice derived from the old discipline, wherein on entering the priesthood, then were wont to be anointed with oil from a horn, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses. Whence Aaron is called “Christ,’ from the ‘chrism, ‘which is ‘the unction;’ which, when made spiritual, furnished an appropriate name to the Lord, because He was ‘anointed’ with the Spirit by God the Father; as written in the Acts: ‘For truly they were gathered together in this city against Thy Holy Son whom Thou hast anointed.’ Thus, too, in our case, the unction runs cornally, (on the body,) but profits spiritually; in the same way as the act of baptism itself too is carnal, in that we are plunged in water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins. (On Baptism 7)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

‘And she said to her maids, Bring me oil.’ For faith and love prepare oil and unguents to those who are washed. But what were these unguents, but the commandments of the holy Word? And what was the oil, but the power of the Holy Spirit, with which believers are anointed as with ointment after the layer of washing? All these things were figuratively represented in the blessed Susannah, for our sakes, that we who now believe on God might not regard the things that are done now in the Church as strange, but believe them all to have been set forth in figure by the patriarchs of old, as the apostle also says: ‘Now these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the world are come.’ (Commentary on Daniel)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

It is also necessary that he should be anointed who is baptized; so that, having received the chrism, that is, the anointing, he may be anointed of God, and have in him the grace of Christ. Further, it is the Eucharist whence the baptized are anointed with the oil sanctified on the altar. But he cannot sanctify the creature of oil, who has neither an altar nor a church; whence also there can be no spiritual anointing among heretics, since it is manifest that the oil cannot be sanctified nor the Eucharist celebrated at all among them. But we ought to know and remember that it is written, ‘Let not the oil of a sinner anoint my head,’ which the Holy Spirit before forewarned in the Psalms, lest any one going out of the way and wandering from the path of truth should be anointed by heretics and adversaries of Christ. (To Januarius, Epistle 70/69:2)

Council of Carthage VII ca. 256

[I]n the Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with his divine voice, saying, ‘Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5]. This is the Spirit which from the beginning was borne over the waters; for neither can the Spirit operate without the water, nor the water without the Spirit. Certain people therefore interpret [this passage] for themselves wrongly, when they say that by imposition of the hand they receive the Holy Ghost, and are thus received, when it is manifest that they ought to be born again [initiated] in the Catholic Church by both sacraments. (Seventh Council of Carthage)

St. Aphrahat the Persian ca. 270-345

But a gate has been opened for seeking peace, whereby the mist has lifted from the reason of the multitude; and light has dawned in the mind; and from the glistening olive, fruits are put forth, in which there is a sign of the sacrament of life, by which Christians are perfected, as well as priests and kings and prophets. It illuminates the darkness, anoints the sick, and leads back penitents in its secret sacrament.  (Treatises, 23:3)

Council of Laodicea ca. 364

They who are baptized must after Baptism be anointed with the heavenly chrism, and be partakers of the Kingdom of Christ. (Canon 48)

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

That oil is a friend

of the Holy Spirit, and His servant.

Like a disciple, it accompanies Him,

that with which the priests and the anointed are sealed.

By means of the oil, the Holy Spirit impresses

His seal upon the sheep;

Like a signet pressed in wax,

He impresses His seal.

So also the invisible eal of the Spirit

is impressed on our bodies with the oil

With which we are anointed in Baptism,

whereby we bear His seal.

(Hymns on Virginity 7.6)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

…[B]eware of supposing this to be plain ointment. For as the Bread of the Eucharist. after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is mere bread no longer, but the Body of Christ, so also this holy ointment is no more simple ointment, nor so to say common, after invocation, but it is Christ’s gift of grace, and, by the advent of the Holy Ghost, is made fit to impart His Divine Nature. Which ointment is symbolically applied to thy forehead and thy other senses; and while thy body is anointed with the visible ointment, thy soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit. (Catechetical Lectures 21.3)

St. Serapion of Thmuis fl. ca. 330 to 360

You may effect in this chrism a divine and heavenly operation, so that those baptized and anointed in tracing with it of the sign of the saving cross of the Only-begotten, through which cross Satan and every adverse power is turned aside and conquered, as if reborn and renewed through the bath of regeneration, may be made participants in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and confirmed by this seal, may remain firm and immovable, unharmed and inviolate. (Prayer over the Chrism)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? (On the Holy Spirit 27.66)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

But if you would fortify yourself beforehand with the Seal, and secure yourself for the future with the best and strongest of all aids, being signed both in body and in soul with the unction, as Israel was of old with that blood and unction of the firstborn at night that guarded him, Exo. 12:22 what then can happen to you, and what has been wrought out for you? Listen to the Proverbs. If you sit, he says, you shall be without fear; and if you sleep, your sleep shall be sweet. Prov. 3:24 And listen to David giving you the good news, You shall not be afraid for the terror by night, for mischance or noonday demon. This, even while you live, will greatly contribute to your sense of safety (for a sheep that is sealed is not easily snared, but that which is unmarked is an easy prey to thieves), and at your death a fortunate shroud, more precious than gold, more magnificent than a sepulchre, more reverent than fruitless libations, more seasonable than ripe firstfruits, which the dead bestow on the dead, making a law out of custom. Nay, if all things forsake you, Lk. 9:60 or be taken violently away from you; money, possessions, thrones, distinctions, and everything that belongs to this early turmoil, yet you will be able to lay down your life in safety, having suffered no loss of the helps which God gave you unto salvation. (Oration 40 On Holy Baptism 15)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397

After this, you went up to the priest, consider what followed. Was it not that of which David speaks: Like the ointment upon the head, which went down to the beard, even Aaron’s beard? This is the ointment of which Solomon, too, says: Your Name is ointment poured out, therefore have the maidens loved You and drawn You. Songs 1:2 How many souls regenerated this day have loved You, Lord Jesus, and have said: Draw us after You, we are running after the odour of Your garments, Songs 1:3 that they might drink in the odour of Your resurrection.

Consider now why this is done, for the eyes of a wise man are in his head; Eccl. 2:14 therefore the ointment flows down to the beard, that is to say, to the beauty of youth; and therefore, Aaron’s beard, that we, too, may become a chosen race, priestly and precious, for we are all anointed with spiritual grace for a share in the kingdom of God and in the priesthood. (On the Mysteries 6.29-30)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Don’t you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the invocation of the Holy Spirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law, as for instance the practice of dipping the head three times in the layer, and then, after leaving the water, of tasting mingled milk and honey in representation of infancy; and, again, the practices of standing up in worship on the Lord’s day, and ceasing from fasting every Pentecost; and there are many other unwritten practices which have won their place through reason and custom. So you see we follow the practice of the Church, although it may be clear that a person was baptized before the Spirit was invoked. (Against the Luciferians 8)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Why, therefore, is the Head itself, whence that ointment of unity descended, that is, the spiritual fragrance of brotherly love,–why, I say, is the Head itself exposed to your resistance, while it testifies and declares that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”? And by this ointment you wish the sacrament of chrism to be understood, which is indeed holy as among the class of visible signs, like baptism itself… (Letters of Petilian the Donatist, Bk. 2,104:239)

Apostolic Constitutions compiled ca. 375

But thou shalt beforehand anoint the person with the holy oil, and afterward baptize him with the water, and in the conclusion shall seal him with the ointment; that the anointing with oil may be the participation of the Holy Spirit, and the water the symbol of the death of Christ, and the ointment the seal of the covenants. But if there be neither oil nor ointment, water is sufficient both for the anointing, and for the seal, and for the confession of Him that is dead, or indeed is dying together with Christ. (Apostolic Constitutions, 7,2:22)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

The living water of holy Baptism is given to us as if in rain, and the Bread of Life as if in wheat, and the Blood as if in wine. In Addition to this there is also the use of oil, reckoned as perfecting those who have been justified in Christ through holy baptism.(Commentary on the Minor Prophets, 32)

St. Patrick of Ireland ca. 387-493

The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) – the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people – I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them. (Letter to Coroticus)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Today’s festival, dearly-beloved, hallowed by the descent of the Holy Ghost, is followed, as you know by a solemn fast, which being a salutary institution for the healing of soul and body, we must keep with devout observance. For when the Apostles had been filled with the promised power, and the Spirit of Truth had entered their hearts, we doubt not that among the other mysteries of heavenly doctrine this discipline of spiritual self-restraint was first thought of at the prompting of the Paraclete in order that minds sanctified by fasting might be fitter for the chrism to be bestowed on them. The disciples of Christ had the protection of the Almighty aid, and the chiefs of the infant Church were guarded by the whole Godhead of the Father and the Son through the presence of the Holy Ghost. (Sermon 78)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

…[T]he priests guide the man to the water and there he is handed over to the hierarch who, standing on a more elevated spot, immerses three times the initiate whose name is called out across the water by the priests to the hierarch with each immersion. Each time the initiate is plunged into the water and emerges, the hierarch invokes the three Persons of the divine blessedness. The priests then bring the man back to his sponsor, to the one who had brought him for introduction, and together with him they reclothe the man and bring him back once more to the hierarch. Using the most potently divine ointment he makes the sign of the cross on him and proclaims him ready to participate in the sacredly initiating Eucharist. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy Chap. 2)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

It has also come to our ears that some have been offended by our having forbidden presbyters to touch with chrism those who are to be baptized. And we indeed acted according to the ancient use of our Church: but, if any are in fact hereby distressed, we allow that, where there is a lack of bishops, presbyters may touch with chrism, even on their foreheads, those who are to be baptized. (Letters Bk. 4.26)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

The spiritual anointing is the Holy Spirit Himself, whose sacrament is the visible anointing. He says that all who have this anointing of Christ perceive good and evil and do not need to be taught, because the anointing it self teaches them.(Commentary on 1st John)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Olive oil is employed in baptism as a significant of our anointing, and as making us anointed, and as announcing to us through the Holy Spirit God’s pity: for it was the fruit of the olive that the dove brought to those who were saved from the flood. (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.9)

Council of Trullo ca. 692

Those who from the heretics come over to orthodoxy, and to the number of those who should be saved, we receive according to the following order and custom. Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, who call themselves Cathari, Aristeri, and Testareskaidecatitæ, or Tetraditæ, and Apollinarians, we receive on their presentation of certificates and on their anathematizing every heresy which does not hold as does the holy Apostolic Church of God: then first of all we anoint them with the holy chrism on their foreheads, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears; and as we seal them we say— The seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Canon 95)

On the Holy Sacrifice

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

And here also we have diligently to consider, that it is far more secure and safe that every man should do that for himself while he is yet alive, which he desireth that others should do for him after his death. For far more blessed it is, to depart free out of this world, than being in prison to seek for release: and therefore reason teacheth us, that we should with our whole soul contemn this present world, at least because we see that it is now gone and past: and to offer unto God the daily sacrifice of tears, and the daily sacrifice of His body and blood. For this sacrifice doth especially save our souls from everlasting damnation, which in mystery doth renew unto us the death of the Son of God: who although being risen from death, doth not now die any more, nor death shall not any further prevail against Him: yet living in Himself immortally, and without all corruption, He is again sacrificed for us in this mystery of the holy oblation: for there His body is received, there His flesh is distributed for the salvation of the people: there His blood is not now shed betwixt the hands of infidels, but poured into the mouths of the faithful. Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always represent the passion of the only Son of God: for what right believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens be opened, and the choirs of Angels are present in that mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible? (The Dialogues Bk. 4 Chap. 58)

On the Angels of the Churches

St. John in the Apocalypse is shown seven candlesticks and in their midst, the Son of Man holding seven stars (Rev. 1:13, 20). The candlesticks represent the seven Churches of Asia; the stars, the angels of those Churches. He is bidden to write to the respective angels  of those Churches and distribute to each his meed of praise or blame. Origen (Hom., xiii in Luc., and Hom., xx in Num.) explains that these are the guardian angels of the Churches, a view upheld by Dean Alford. But St. Epiphanius (Hær., xxv) explicitly rejects this view, and, in accordance with the imagery of the passage, explains it of the bishops. The comparison of a teacher to a star is quite Scriptural: And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3). St. Augustine’s reason for interpreting angels of the Churches as the prelates of the church is that St. John speaks of them as falling from their first charity which is not true of the angels. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373
In his degree the priest is an angel, but in his doings a man. By mercy he is made a mediator, between God and mankind. (Homily on Admonition and Repentance 11)
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397
You saw there the deacon, you saw the priest, you saw the chief priest [i.e. the bishop]. Consider not the bodily forms, but the grace of the Mysteries. You spoke in the presence of the angels, as it is written: For the priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they seek the law at his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord Almighty. Mal.2:7 There is no place for deception nor for denial. He is an angel who proclaims the kingdom of Christ and eternal life. He is to be esteemed by you not according to his appearance, but according to his office. Consider what he delivered, reflect upon the rule of life he gave you, recognize his position. (On the Mysteries 2.6)
Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430
[In] the Apocalypse of John we read: Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus write: These things says He that holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know your works, and your labour, and your patience, and how you can not bear them which are evil: and you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast tolerated them, and hast not fainted. (Rev. 2:1-3) Now, if He wished this to be understood as addressed to a celestial angel, and not to those invested with authority in the Church, He would not go on to say: Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from whence you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, unless you repent. Revelation 2:4-5 This could not be said to the heavenly angels, who retain their love unchanged, as the only beings of their order that have departed and fallen from their love are the devil and his angels. The first love here alluded to is that which was proved in their tolerating for Christ’s name’s sake the false apostles. To this He commands them to return, and to do their first works. Now we are reproached with the crimes of bad men, not done by us, but by others; and some of them, moreover, not known to us. Nevertheless, even if they were actually committed, and that under our own eyes, and we bore with them for the sake of unity, letting the tares alone on account of the wheat, whosoever with open heart receives the Holy Scriptures would pronounce us not only free from blame, but worthy of no small praise. (Letter 43 Chap. 8.22)
St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.
But you will find that the Word of God calls gods, both the Heavenly Beings above us, and the most beloved of God, and holy men amongst us, although the Divine Hiddenness is transcendently elevated and established above all, and no created Being can. properly and wholly be said to be like unto It, except those intellectual and rational Beings who are entirely and wholly turned to Its Oneness as far as possible, and who elevate themselves incessantly to Its Divine illuminations, as far as attainable, by their imitation of God, if I may so speak, according to their power, and are deemed worthy of the same divine name. (Celestial Hierarchy Chap. 12 Section 3)
St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

But because Holy Scripture is frequently accustomed to designate the preachers of the Church, by the name of ‘Angels’ because they announce the glory ofthe heavenly country, we can in this place understand ‘Angels’ to mean holy preachers. For this cause it is that John, in the Apocalypse, writing to the seven Churches, speaks to the Angels of the Churches, that is, to the preachers of the peoples. (Morals 34.7[14], LF 31:629)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
Rev 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
That is, the rulers of the Church. For the priest, as Malachi says “is the angel of the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 2:7) (Commentary on the Apocalypse)
Rev 3:1-4 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He that has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name, that you live, and you are dead. Be watchful, and keep that which remains, which you were about to cast out, for I have not found your works perfect before My God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and by no means shall you know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy.
He reproves this angel, that is, the bishop, as not sufficiently diligent in correcting the bad. He commends him, however, as having some who walk in white, and the name Sardis agrees with these, as that of a precious stone. (Commentary on the Apocalypse)

Church Fathers on Universalism

Mat 12:31-32 Therefore I say to you: Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, nor in the world to come. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. 

Mat 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

2Th 1:7-9 And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with the angels of his power: In a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his power… 

Rev 20:10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

St. Polycarp of Smryna ca. 69-155

The proconsul then said to him, “I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast you, unless you repent.”

But he answered, “Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous.”

But again the proconsul said to him, “I will cause you to be consumed by fire, seeing you despise the wild beasts, if you will not repent.”

But Polycarp said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why do you tarry? Bring forth what you will.” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

For among us the prince of the wicked spirits is called the serpent, and Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. And that he would be sent into the fire with his host, and the men who follow him, and would be punished for an endless duration, Christ foretold. (First Apology 28)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Inasmuch, then, as in both Testaments there is the same righteousness of God [displayed] when God takes vengeance, in the one case indeed typically, temporarily, and more moderately; but in the other, really, enduringly, and more rigidly: for the fire is eternal, and the wrath of God which shall be revealed from heaven from the face of our Lord (as David also says, “But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” ), entails a heavier punishment on those who incur it—the elders pointed out that those men are devoid of sense, who, [arguing] from what happened to those who formerly did not obey God, do endeavour to bring in another Father, setting over against [these punishments] what great things the Lord had done at His coming to save those who received Him, taking compassion upon them; while they keep silence with regard to His judgment; and all those things which shall come upon such as have heard His words, but done them not, and that it were better for them if they had not been born, Matthew 26:24 and that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the judgment than for that city which did not receive the word of His disciples. Matthew 10:15

For as, in the New Testament, that faith of men [to be placed] in God has been increased, receiving in addition [to what was already revealed] the Son of God, that man too might be a partaker of God; so is also our walk in life required to be more circumspect, when we are directed not merely to abstain from evil actions, but even from evil thoughts, and from idle words, and empty talk, and scurrilous language: thus also the punishment of those who do not believe the Word of God, and despise His advent, and are turned away backwards, is increased; being not merely temporal, but rendered also eternal. For to whomsoever the Lord shall say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire,” Matthew 25:41 these shall be damned for ever; and to whomsoever He shall say, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you for eternity,” Matthew 25:34 these do receive the kingdom for ever, and make constant advance in it; since there is one and the same God the Father, and His Word, who has been always present with the human race, by means indeed of various dispensations, and has wrought out many things, and saved from the beginning those who are saved, (for these are they who love God, and follow the Word of God according to the class to which they belong,) and has judged those who are judged, that is, those who forget God, and are blasphemous, and transgressors of His word. (Against Heresies Bk. 4:28:1-2)

Mathetes ca. 150

[H]e who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbour; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes a god to those who receive [his benefits]: he is an imitator of God. Then you shall see, while still on earth, that God in the heavens rules over [the universe]; then you shall begin to speak the mysteries of God; then shall you both love and admire those that suffer punishment because they will not deny God; then shall you condemn the deceit and error of the world when you shall know what it is to live truly in heaven, when you shall despise that which is here esteemed to be death, when you shall fear what is truly death, which is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire, which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it. Then shall you admire those who for righteousness’ sake endure the fire that is but for a moment, and shall count them happy when you shall know [the nature of] that fire. (Letter to Diognetus 10)

2nd Clement ca. 150

This world and the next are two enemies. The one urges to adultery and corruption, avarice and deceit; the other bids farewell to these things. We cannot, therefore, be the friends of both; and it behoves us, by renouncing the one, to make sure of the other. Let us reckon that it is better to hate the things present, since they are trifling, and transient, and corruptible; and to love those [which are to come,] as being good and incorruptible. For if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; otherwise, nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we disobey His commandments. For thus also saith the Scripture in Ezekiel, “If Noah, Job, and Daniel should rise up, they should not deliver their children in captivity.” Now, if men so eminently righteous are not able by their righteousness to deliver their children, how can we hope to enter into the royal residence of God unless we keep our baptism holy and undefiled? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found possessed of works of holiness and righteousness? (2nd Epistle of Clement 6)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just if your judgment!’ And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which doesnot die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appealof interceding friends will profit them. (Against the Greeks 3)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

When the day of judgment shall come, what joy of believers, what sorrow of unbelievers; that they should have been unwilling to believe here, and now that they should be unable to return that they might believe! An ever-burning Gehenna will burn up the condemned, and a punishment devouring with living flames; nor will there be any source whence at any time they may have either respite or end to their torments. Souls with their bodies will be reserved in infinite tortures for suffering. Thus the man will be for ever seen by us who here gazed upon us for a season; and the short joy of those cruel eyes in the persecutions that they made for us will be compensated by a perpetual spectacle, according to the truth of Holy Scripture, which says, “Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be for a vision to all flesh.” Isaiah 66:24 And again: “Then shall the righteous men stand in great constancy before the face of those who have afflicted them, and have taken away their labours. When they see it, they shall be troubled with horrible fear, and shall be amazed at the suddenness of their unexpected salvation; and they, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit, shall say within themselves, These are they whom we had some time in derision, and a proverb of reproach; we fools counted their life madness, and their end to be without honour. How are they numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints! Therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness has not shined upon us, and the sun rose not on us. We wearied ourselves in the way of wickedness and destruction; we have gone through deserts where there lay no way; but we have not known the way of the Lord. What has pride profited us, or what good has the boasting of riches done us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.” Wisdom 5:1-9 The pain of punishment will then be without the fruit of penitence; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late they will believe in eternal punishment who would not believe in eternal life.(Treatise V: To Demetrianus 24)

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus ca. 213-270

Aforetime did the devil deride the nature of man with great laughter, and he has had his joy over the times of our calamity as his festal-days. But the laughter is only a three days’ pleasure, while the wailing is eternal; and his great laughter has prepared for him a greater wailing and ceaseless tears, and inconsolable weeping, and a sword in his heart. This sword did our Leader forge against the enemy with fire in the virgin furnace, in such wise and after such fashion as He willed, and gave it its point by the energy of His invincible divinity, and dipped it in the water of an undefiled baptism, and sharpened it by sufferings without passion in them, and made it bright by the mystical resurrection; and herewith by Himself He put to death the vengeful adversary, together with his whole host. What manner of word, therefore, will express our joy or his misery? (On All Saints)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373

But we impart of what we have learned from inspired teachers who have been conversant with them, who have also become martyrs for the deity of Christ, to your zeal for learning, in turn. And you will also learn about His second glorious and truly divine appearing to us, when no longer in lowliness, but in His own glory—no longer in humble guise, but in His own magnificence—He is to come, no more to suffer, but thenceforth to render to all the fruit of His own Cross, that is, the resurrection and incorruption; and no longer to be judged, but to judge all, by what each has done in the body, whether good or evil; where there is laid up for the good the kingdom of heaven, but for them that have done evil everlasting fire and outer darkness. (On the Incarnation 56)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

Thus there will be given no rest to the pagans nor will the onset of death bring the peace they desire. Instead, their bodies are destined to suffer eternally because their punishment of eternal fire will be physical. What they endure, along with everything else destined for eternity, will have no end. If pagans are given a body destined for eternity in order to suffer the fire of judgment, how great is the impiety of those saints who doubt the glory of eternity since eternal punishment is certain for sinners! (On Matthew 5.12)

St. Ephrem of Syria ca. 306-373

The children of light

dwell on the heights of Paradise,

and beyond the Abyss

they espy the rich man;

he too, as he raises his eyes,

beholds Lazarus,

and calls out to Abrhaham

to have pity on him.

But Abraham, that man so full of pity,

who even had pity on Sodom,

has no pity yonder

for him who showed no pity.

The Abyss severs any love

which might act as a mediary,

thus preventing the love of the just

from being bound to the wicked,

so that the good should not be tortured

by the sight, in Gehenna,

of their children or brothers

or family –

a mother, who denied Christ,

imploring mercy from her son

or her maid or her daughter,

who had all suffered affliction for the sake of

Christ’s teaching.

…The children of light reside

in their lofty abode

and, as they gaze on the wicked

they are amazed to what extent these people

have cut off all hope by committing such iniquity.

(The Hymns on Paradise 1.12-14)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with Angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. And righteously will God assign this portion to either company; for we do nothing without the body. We blaspheme with the mouth, and with the mouth we pray. With the body we commit fornication, and with the body we keep chastity. With the hand we rob, and by the hand we bestow alms; and the rest in like manner. Since then the body has been our minister in all things, it shall also share with us in the future the fruits of the past. (Catechetical Lectures 18:19)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

I know the glittering sword, Ezekiel 21:9 and the blade made drunk in heaven, bidden to slay, to bring to naught, to make childless, and to spare neither flesh, nor marrow, nor bones. I know Him, Who, though free from passion, meets us like a bear robbed of her whelps, like a leopard in the way of the Assyrians, Hosea 13:7-8 not only those of that day, but if anyone now is an Assyrian in wickedness: nor is it possible to escape the might and speed of His wrath when He watches over our impieties, and His jealousy, which knows to devour His adversaries, pursues His enemies to the death. Hosea 8:3 I know the emptying, the making void, the making waste, the melting of the heart, and knocking of the knees together, Nahum 2:10 such are the punishments of the ungodly. I do not dwell on the judgments to come, to which indulgence in this world delivers us, as it is better to be punished and cleansed now than to be transmitted to the torment to come, when it is the time of chastisement, not of cleansing. (Oration 16:7)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

In one place the Lord declares that “these shall go to eternal punishment” (Mt. 25:46), and in another place He sends some “to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41); and speaks elsewhere of the fire of gehenna, specifying that it is a place “where their worm dies not, and the fire is not extinguished” (Mk. 9:44-49) and even of old and through the Prophet it was foretold of some that “their worm will not die, nor will their fire be extinguished” (Isa. 66:24). Although these and the like declarations are to be found in numerous places of divinely inspired Scripture, it is one of the artifices of the devil, that many forgetting these and other such statements and utterances of the Lord, ascribe an end to punishment, so that they can sin the more boldly. If, however, there were going to be and end of eternal punishment, there would likewise be and end to eternal life. If we cannot conceive of an end to that life, how are we to suppose there will be and end to eternal punishment? The qualification of “eternal” is ascribed equally to both of them. “For these are going,” He says, “into eternal punishment; the just, however, into eternal life.” (Mt. 25:46) If we profess these things we must recognize that the “he shall be flogged with many stripes” and the “he shall be flogged with few stripes” refer not to an end but to a distinction of punishment. (Rules Briefly Treated 267)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 337-397

[H]ow can they dare to reckon the Holy Spirit among all things, since the Lord Himself said: “He who shall blaspheme against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven, either here or hereafter.” Matthew 12:32 How, then, can any one dare to reckon the Holy Spirit among creatures? Or who will so blind himself as to think that if he have injured any creature he cannot be forgiven in any wise? For if the Jews because they worshipped the host of heaven were deprived of divine protection, while he who worships and confesses the Holy Spirit is accepted of God, but he who confesses Him not is convicted of sacrilege without forgiveness: certainly it follows from this that the Holy Spirit cannot be reckoned among all things, but that He is above all things, an offense against Whom is avenged by eternal punishment. (On the Holy Spirit Bk. 1:53)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

If all rational creatures are equal, and by their own free will are, in view of their virtues or of their vices, either raised up to the heights or plunged down to the depths, and after the lengthy passage of infinite ages there will be a restitution of all things and but a single destiny for all soldiers, how far apart will a virgin be from a whore? What difference between the Mother of the Lord – and it impious even to say it – the victims of public licentiousness? Will Gabriel and the devil be the same? The Apostles and the demons the same? The Prophets and the pseudo-prophets the same? Martyrs and their persecutors the same? (Commentaries on Jonas 3,6)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

There are many men, who form good hopes not by abstaining from their sins, but by thinking that hell is not so terrible as it is said to be, but milder than what is threatened, and temporary, not eternal; and about this they philosophize much. But I could show from many reasons, and conclude from the very expressions concerning hell, that it is not only not milder, but much more terrible than is threatened. But I do not now intend to discourse concerning these things. For the fear even from bare words is sufficient, though we do not fully unfold their meaning. But that it is not temporary, hear Paul now saying, concerning those who know not God, and who do not believe in the Gospel, that “they shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction.” How then is that temporary which is everlasting? “From the face of the Lord,” he says. What is this? He here wishes to say how easily it might be. For since they were then much puffed up, there is no need, he says, of much trouble; it is enough that God comes and is seen, and all are involved in punishment and vengeance. His coming only to some indeed will be Light, but to others vengeance. (Homily 3 on 2nd Thessalonians)

Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430

It is in vain, then, that some, indeed very many, make moan over the eternal punishment, and perpetual, unintermitted torments of the lost, and say they do not believe it shall be so; not, indeed, that they directly oppose themselves to Holy Scripture, but, at the suggestion of their own feelings, they soften down everything that seems hard, and give a milder turn to statements which they think are rather designed to terrify than to be received as literally true. For “Hath God” they say, forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Now, they read this in one of the holy psalms. But without doubt we are to understand it as spoken of those who are elsewhere called “vessels of mercy,” because even they are freed from misery not on account of any merit of their own, but solely through the pity of God. Or, if the men we speak of insist that this passage applies to all mankind, there is no reason why they should therefore suppose that there will be an end to the punishment of those of whom it is said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment;” for this shall end in the same manner and at the same time as the happiness of those of whom it is said, “but the righteous unto life eternal.” But let them suppose, if the thought gives them pleasure, that the pains of the damned are, at certain intervals, in some degree assuaged. For even in this case the wrath of God, that is, their condemnation (for it is this, and not any disturbed feeling in the mind of God that is called His wrath), abides upon them; that is, His wrath, though it still remains, does not shut up His tender mercies; though His tender mercies are exhibited, not in putting an end to their eternal punishment, but in mitigating, or in granting them a respite from, their torments; for the psalm does not say, “to put an end to His anger,” or, “when His anger is passed by,” but “in His anger.” Now, if this anger stood alone, or if it existed in the smallest conceivable degree, yet to be lost out of the kingdom of God, to be an exile from the city of God, to be alienated from the life of God, to have no share in that great goodness which God has laid up for them that fear Him, and has wrought out for them that trust in Him, would be a punishment so great, that, supposing it to be eternal, no torments that we know of, continued through as many ages as man’s imagination can conceive, could be compared with it.

This perpetual death of the wicked, then, that is, their alienation from the life of God, shall abide for ever, and shall be common to them all, whatever men, prompted by their human affections, may conjecture as to a variety of punishments, or as to a mitigation or intermission of their woes; just as the eternal life of the saints shall abide for ever, and shall be common to them all, whatever grades of rank and honor there may be among those who shine with an harmonious effulgence. (Enchiridion 112-113)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

And this too we must bear in mind, that the crowns are to be won by labour. It is strong exertion united with skill that perfects those mighty athletes in the games. It is courage and a brave mind that are most serviceable to those who are skilled in battles: while the man who throws away his shield is ridiculed even by the foe: and if the runaway live, he leads a life of disgrace. But he who was steadfast in the battle, and stood stoutly and courageously with all his might against the enemy, is honoured if he win the victory; and if he fall, is looked upon with admiration. And so ought we to reckon for ourselves; for to endure patiently, and maintain the conflict with courage, brings with it great reward, and is highly desirable, and wins for us the blessings bestowed by God: while to refuse to suffer death in the flesh for the love of Christ, brings upon us lasting, or rather never-ending punishment. For the wrath of man reaches at most to the body, and the death of the flesh is the utmost that they can contrive against us: but when God punishes, the loss reaches not to the flesh alone;—-how could it?—-but the wretched soul also is cast alone; with it into torments. (Sermon 87, On Luke)

 

St. Patrick of Ireland ca. 387-493

Far from the love of God is a man who hands over Christians to the Picts and Scots. Ravening wolves have devoured the flock of the Lord, which in Ireland was indeed growing splendidly with the greatest care; and the sons and daughters of kings were monks and virgins of Christ — I cannot count their number. Wherefore, be not pleased with the wrong done to the just; even to hell it shall not please (Sirach 9:3). Who of the saints would not shudder to be merry with such persons or to enjoy a meal with them? They have filled their houses with the spoils of dead Christians, they live on plunder. They do not know, the wretches, that what they offer their friends and sons as food is deadly poison, just as Eve did not understand that it was death she gave to her husband. So are all that do evil: they work death as their eternal punishment. (Letter to Coroticus)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

GREGORY. Certain it is, and without all doubt most true, that as the good shall have no end of their joys, so the wicked never any release of their torments: for our Saviour himself saith: The wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, and the just into everlasting life. Seeing, then, true it is, that which He hath promised to His friends: out of all question false it cannot be, that which He hath threatened to His enemies.

PETER. What if it be said that He did threaten eternal pain to wicked livers, that He might thereby restrain them from committing of sins?

GREGORY. If that which He did threaten be false, because His intent was by that means to keep men from wicked life: then likewise must we say that those things are false which He did promise: and that His mind was thereby to provoke us to virtue. But what man, though mad, dare presume so to say? For if He threatened that which he meant not to put into execution: whiles we are desirous to make Him merciful, enforced we are likewise (which is horrible to speak) to affirm Him to be deceitful.

PETER. Willing I am to know how that sin can justly be punished without end, which had an end when it was committed.

GREGORY. This which you say might have some reason, if the just judge did only consider the sins committed, and not the minds with which they were committed: for the reason why wicked men made an end of sinning was, because they also made an end of their life: for willingly they would, had it been in their power, have lived without end, that they might in like manner have sinned without end. For they do plainly declare that they desired always to live in sin, who never, so long as they were in this world, gave over their wicked life: and therefore it belongeth to the great justice of the supreme judge, that they should never want torments and punishment in the next world, who in this would never give over their wicked and sinful life.

PETER. But no judge that loveth justice taketh pleasure in cruelty: and the end why the just master commandeth his wicked servant to be punished is, that he may give over his lewd life. If, then, the wicked that are tormented in hell fire never come to amend themselves, to what end shall they always burn in those flames?

GREGORY. Almighty God, because He is merciful and full of pity, taketh no pleasure in the torments of wretched men: but because He is also just, therefore doth He never give over to punish the wicked. All which being condemned to perpetual pains, punished they are for their own wickedness: and yet shall they always there burn in fire for some end, and that is, that all those which be just and God’s servants may in God behold the joys which they possess, and in them see the torments which they have escaped: to the end that they may thereby always acknowledge themselves grateful to God for His grace, in that they perceive through His divine assistance, what sins they have overcome, which they behold in others to be punished everlastingly.

PETER. And how, I pray you, can they be holy and saints, if they pray not for their enemies, whom they see to lie in such torments? when it is said to them: Pray for your enemies.

GREGORY. They pray for their enemies at such time as their hearts may be turned to fruitful penance, and so be saved: for what purpose else do we pray for our enemies, but, as the Apostle saith, that God may give them repentance to know the truth, and recover themselves from the devil, of whom they are held captive at his will?

PETER. I like very well of your saying: for how shall they pray for them, who by no means can be converted from their wickedness, and brought to do the works of justice?

GREGORY. You see, then, that the reason is all one, why, in the next life, none shall pray for men condemned for ever to hell fire: that there is now of not praying for the devil and his angels, sentenced to everlasting torments: and this also is the very reason why holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God, their just judge? And therefore, if now holy men living upon earth take no compassion of those that be dead and damned for their sins, when as yet they know that themselves do some thing through the frailty of the flesh, which is also to be judged: how much more straightly and severely do they behold the torments of the damned, when they be themselves delivered from all vice of corruption, and be more nearly united to true justice itself: for the force of justice doth so possess their souls, in that they be so intrinsical with the most just judge, that they list not by any means to do that which they know is not conformable to his divine pleasure. (Dialogues Bk. 4:44)

Mat 25:11-12 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

The door of the kingdom will close forever to those left outside, who will then weep; that door is now open to all penitents. There will be repentance then, but it will be fruitless. The Lord does not hear virgins call Him, because once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach Him, Who was so formerly approachable. (The Ten Virgins, Orthodox New Testament: Endnotes-Matthew pg. 121)

5th Ecumenical Council: Second Council of Constantinople 553

The Anathemas Against Origen

If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema. (Anathema 1)

The Anathemas of the Emperor Justinian Against OrigenIf anyone says or thinks that Christ the Lord in a future time will be crucified for demons as he was for men, let him be anathema. (Anathema 7)

If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration (ἀποκατάστασις) will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema. (Anathema 9)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Indeed there exists but one happiness, a communion of life with the Word, the loss of which is an endless punishment which goes on for all eternity. And that is why abandoning his body and whatever is the body’s he strives intensely toward that communion of life with God, thinking that the only loss – even he were master of everything on earth – would be in the failure of the deification by grace which he pursues. (Commentary on the Our Father)

St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 6th cent.

Rev 14:11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.

This smoke must imply either the labored breath that cornes out along with the groaning of those being punished emanating up from below, or the smoke coming forth from the fire punishing those who have fallen. It is to ascend forever and ever, it says, that we might learn that it is endless, just as the bliss of the righteous (will be endless), in like manner also, the torment of the sinners. (Commentary on the Apocalypse)

Rev 19:3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the smoke rises forever and ever from the city signifies either the uninterrupted never-to-be-forgotten (nature) of the punishments coming upon her into perpetuity, or the judgments partly rendered to her, to be tormented more fittingly but nevertheless eternally in the future. (ibid.)

Rev. 19:21 And the rest were slain by the sword of Him Who sits upon the horse, the sword which cornes from his mouth, and ail the birds were gorged with their flesh.

There are two deaths; the first is the separation of the soul and the body, the second is being cast into Gehenna. If (this is applied to) those (who are) together with the Antichrist, it is said they will be led to the first death in the flesh by the sword of God, that is, by his command, and thus afterward the second will follow, if this is correct. If it is not thus, they will (only) participate in the second death, the eternal torment with the ones who had deceived them.  (ibid.)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

For the fire which once punished the people of Sodom also plainly shows what the wicked are going to suffer without end. And the fact that their smoke-producing land remains, that its most admirable fruits have ashes and a bad smell within, clearly signifies to all ages that although bodily pleasure delights the minds of the foolish for the present, nevertheless in what concerns that which cannot be seen restains for itelf nothing except that the smoke of its torments rise up for ever and ever. (Commentary on 2nd Peter)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

All wickedness, then, and all impure passions are the work of their mind. But while the liberty to attack man has been granted to them, they have not the strength to over-master any one: for we have it in our power to receive or not to receive the attack. Wherefore there has been prepared for the devil and his demons, and those who follow him, fire unquenchable and everlasting punishment Matthew 25:41 .

Note, further, that what in the case of man is death is a fall in the case of angels. For after the fall there is no possibility of repentance for them, just as after death there is for men no repentance. (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Book II. 4)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

So let us see, if you are willing, who is he “who hates to be reformed” and who it is who “casts His words behind him.” He who does not obey God’s laws hates the instruction that comes from the words of the Lord. He “stops his ears” (Ps. 58:5) so that he may not hear the word about the final retribution for sinners or about that eternal fire and the punishments of hell and that everlasting condemnation, from which retribution he who has fallen into cannot escape. (The Discourses, Discourse 7.1)

St. Theophylact of Ochrid ca. 1055-1107

A conclusion to be drawn against the Origenists who say that there will be a time when there is an end to hell, that the sinners will be united with the righteous and with God, and thus God will be all in all. Let us hear what Abraham says, that they who would pass from hence to you, or from thence to us, cannot. Therefore, it is impossible for anyone to go from the place apportioned to the righteous to the place of sinners, and likewise, Abraham teaches us, it is impossible to go from the place of punishment to the place of the righteous. And Abraham, I presume, is more trustworthy than Origen. (Explanation of the Gospel According to St. Luke, Chap. 16)

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

Although in the future restoration, when the bodies of the righteous shall be raised, the bodies of the lawless and sinners will also be raised, they will be raised only so as to be subjected to the ‘second death’, that is, to eternal torment, the unsleeping worm (Mk. 9:48), the gnashing of teeth (Mt. 8:12), the outer and inpenetrable darkness (Mt. 8:12), to dark and inextinguishable Gehenna (Mt. 5:22). The prophet says, ‘The lawless and the sinners shall be burnt together, and there shall be none to quench (Is. 1:31; cf. Jer. 4:4)’. For this is the ‘second death’, as John teaches us in his Apocalypse. (To the Nun Xenia, P.G. 150:1043-1088)

Pope St. Gregory on The Son, the Day and the Hour

St. Gregory the Dialogist 540-604

But concerning that which has been written: That neither the Son, nor the angels know the day and the hour [cf. Mark 13:32], indeed, your holiness has perceived rightly, that since it most certainly should be referred not to the same son according to that which is the head, but according to his body which we are… He [Augustine] also says… that this can be understood of the same son, because omnipotent God sometimes speaks in a human way, as he said to Abraham: Now I know that thou fearest God [Gen. 22:12], not because God then knew that He was feared, but because at that time He caused Abraham to know that he feared God. For, just as we say a day is happy not because the day itself is happy, but because it makes us happy, so the omnipotent Son says He does not know the day which He causes not to be known, not because He himself is ignorant of it, but because He does not permit it to be known at all. Thus also the Father alone is said to know, because the Son (being) consubstantial with Him, on account of His nature, by which He is above the angels, has knowledge of that, of which the angels are unaware. Thus, also, this can be the more precisely understood because the Only-begotten having been incarnate, and made perfect man for us, in His human nature indeed did know the day and the hour of judgment, but nevertheless He did not know this from His human nature. Therefore, that which in (nature) itself He knew, He did not know from that very (nature), because God-made-man knew the day and hour of the judgment through the power of His Godhead… Thus, the knowledge which He did not have on account of the nature of His humanity-by reason of which, like the angels, He was a creaturethis He denied that He, like the angels, who are creatures, had. Therefore (as) God and man He knows the day and the hour of judgment; but On this account, because God is man. But the fact is certainly manifest that whoever is not a Nestorian, can in no wise be an Agnoeta. For with what purpose can he, who confesses that the Wisdom itself of God is incarnate say that there is anything which the Wisdom of God does not know? It is written: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things were made by him [John 1:13]. If all, without doubt also the day of judgment and the hour. Who, therefore, is so foolish as to presume to assert that the Word of the Father made that which He does not know? it is written also: Jesus knowing, that the Father gave him all things into his hands [ John 13:3]. If all things, surely both the day of judgment and the hour. Who, therefore, is so stupid as to say that the Son has received in His hands that of which He is unaware? (Epistle “Sicut aqua frigida” to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria)

On Partial Preterism

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

Now observe; that city, since the coming of our Savior, has had an end, and all the land of the Jews has been laid waste; so that from the testimony of these things (and we need no further proof, being assured by our own eyes of the fact) there must, of necessity, be an end of the shadow. And not from me should these things be learned, but the sacred voice of the prophet foretold, crying; ‘Behold upon the mountains the feet of Him that brings good tidings, and publishes peace Nahum 1:15;’ and what is the message he published, but that which he goes on to say to them, ‘Keep your feasts, O Judah; pay to the Lord your vows. For they shall no more go to that which is old; it is finished; it is taken away: He is gone up who breathed upon the face, and delivered you from affliction. ‘ Now who is he that went up? A man may say to the Jews, in order that even the boast of the shadow may be done away; neither is it an idle thing to listen to the expression, ‘It is finished; he is gone up who breathed.’ For nothing was finished before he went up who breathed. But as soon as he went up, it was finished. Who was he then, O Jews, as I said before? If Moses, the assertion would be false; for the people were not yet come to the land in which alone they were commanded to perform these rites. But if Samuel, or any other of the prophets, even in that case there would be a perversion of the truth; for hitherto these things were done in Judæa, and the city was standing. For it was necessary that while that stood, these things should be performed. So that it was none of these, my beloved, who went up. But if you would hear the true matter, and be kept from Jewish fables, behold our Saviour who went up, and ‘breathed upon the face, and said to His disciples, Receive the Holy Ghost John 20:22.’ For as soon as these things were done, everything was finished, for the altar was broken, and the veil of the temple was rent; and although the city was not yet laid waste, the abomination was ready to sit in the midst of the temple, and the city and those ancient ordinances to receive their final consummation. (Letters 1)

St. John Chrysostom 349-407 a.d.

And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world? Matthew 24:3

Therefore did they come unto Him privately, as it was of such matters they meant to inquire. For they were in travail to know the day of His coming, because of their eager desire to behold that glory, which is the cause of countless blessings. And these two things do they ask him, when shall these things be? That is, the overthrow of the temple; and, what is the sign of your coming? But Luke says, Luke 21:6-7 the question was one concerning Jerusalem, as though they were supposing that then is His coming. And Mark says, that neither did all of them ask concerning the end of Jerusalem, but Peter and John, as having greater freedom of speech.

What then says He? Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many. And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Matthew 24:4-6

But of wars in Jerusalem is He speaking; for it is not surely of those without, and everywhere in the world; for what did they care for these? And besides, He would thus say nothing new, if He were speaking of the calamities of the world at large, which are happening always. For before this, were wars, and tumults, and fightings; but He speaks of the Jewish wars coming upon them at no great distance, for henceforth the Roman arms were a matter of anxiety. Since then these things also were sufficient to confound them, He foretells them all…

For He brought in also a prophecy, to confirm their desolation, saying, But when you shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, let him that reads understand. He referred them to Daniel. And by abomination He means the statue of him who then took the city, which he who desolated the city and the temple placed within the temple, wherefore Christ calls it, of desolation. Moreover, in order that they might learn that these things will be while some of them are alive, therefore He said, When ye see the abomination of desolation…

And if you are minded to learn these things more distinctly, I mean, the famines, the pestilences, the earthquakes, the other calamities, peruse the history about these things composed by Josephus, and you will know all accurately. Therefore Himself too said, Be not troubled, for all must be; and, He that endures to the end, the same shall be saved; and, The gospel shall surely be preached in all the world. For when weakened and faint at the fear of what had been said, He braces them up by saying, Though ten thousand things be done, the gospel must be preached in every part of the world, and then shall the end come. (Homily 75: On Matthew)

Then let them which be in Judæa flee into the mountains. And let him that is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. Neither let him which is in his field return back to take his clothes.

Having spoken of the ills that were to overtake the city, and of the trials of the apostles, and that they should remain unsubdued, and should overrun the whole world, He mentions again the Jews’ calamities, showing that when the one should be glorious, having taught the whole world, the others should be in calamity…

Then, to show again the greatness of the calamity, He says, Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. Matthew 24:20-21

Do you see that His discourse is addressed to the Jews, and that He is speaking of the ills that should overtake them? For the apostles surely were not to keep the Sabbath day, neither to be there, when Vespasian did those things. For indeed the most part of them were already departed this life. And if any was left, he was dwelling then in other parts of the world.

But wherefore neither in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day? Not in the winter, because of the difficulty arising from the season; not on the Sabbath day, because of the absolute authority exercised by the law. For since they had need of flight, and of the swiftest flight, but neither would the Jews dare to flee on the Sabbath day, because of the law, neither in winter was such a thing easy; therefore, Pray ye, says He; for then shall be tribulation, such as never was, neither shall be.

And let not any man suppose this to have been spoken hyperbolically; but let him study the writings of Josephus, and learn the truth of the sayings. For neither can any one say, that the man being a believer, in order to establish Christ’s words, has exaggerated the tragical history. For indeed He was both a Jew, and a determined Jew, and very zealous, and among them that lived after Christ’s coming.

What then says this man? That those terrors surpassed all tragedy, and that no such had ever overtaken the nation. For so great was the famine, that the very mothers fought about the devouring of their children, and that there were wars about this; and he says that many when they were dead had their bellies ripped up.

I should therefore be glad to inquire of the Jews. Whence came there thus upon them wrath from God intolerable, and more sore than all that had befallen aforetime, not in Judæa only, but in any part of the world? Is it not quite clear, that it was for the deed of the cross, and for this rejection? All would say it, and with all and before all the truth of the facts itself.

But mark, I pray you, the exceeding greatness of the ills, when not only compared with the time before, they appear more grievous, but also with all the time to come. For not in all the world, neither in all time that is past, and that is to come, shall any one be able to say such ills have been. And very naturally; for neither had any man perpetrated, not of those that ever have been, nor of those to come hereafter, a deed so wicked and horrible. Therefore He says, there shall be tribulation such as never was, nor shall be.

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. By these things He shows them to be deserving of a more grievous punishment than had been mentioned, speaking now of the days of the war and of that siege. But what He says is like this. If, says He, the war of the Romans against the city had prevailed further, all the Jews had perished (for by no flesh here, He means no Jewish flesh), both those abroad, and those at home. For not only against those in Judæa did they war, but also those that were dispersed everywhere they outlawed and banished, because of their hatred against the former… (Homily 76: On Matthew)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Lk. 21:5-13. And as some spoke of the temple, that it was adorned with goodly stones and offerings, He said; As for these things that you behold, the days will come in which there shall not be left here stone upon stone which shall not be thrown down. And they asked Him, saying, Teacher, when therefore shall these things be, and what is the sign when these things are about to happen? But He said, Look! Be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, That I am He: and the time is near. Go you therefore not after them. And when you have heard of wars and commotions, be not troubled: for these things must first happen; but the end is not immediately. Then said He to them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: great earthquakes shall be in all places, and famines, and pestilences: and terrors from, heaven, and there shall be great signs. But before all these things they shall lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, and bringing you before kings and rulers for My name sake: but this shall prove to you a witnessing.FROM Christ we have received the knowledge of things about to happen: for it is even He Who “reveals the deep things out of darkness,” and knows those that are hidden: and “in Him are all the treasures of wisdom, and the hidden things of knowledge.'” He changes times and seasons: and refashions the creation to that which it was at the beginning. For it was by His means that when it existed not, it was brought into existence according to the will of God the Father: for He is His living and personal power and wisdom: and again by His means it will easily be changed into that which is better. For as His disciple says, “We expect new heavens, and a new earth, and His promises.”

Now the cause of this digression has been in part the question put to our common Saviour Christ respecting the temple, and the things therein, and partly the answer He made thereto. For some of them showed Him the mighty works that were in the temple, and the beauty of the offerings; expecting that He would admire as they did the spectacle, though He is God, and heaven is His throne. But He deigned, so to speak, no regard whatsoever to these earthly buildings, trifling as they are, and absolutely nothing, compared I mean to the mansions that are above; and dismissing the conversation respecting them, turned Himself rather to that which was necessary for their use. For He forewarned them, that however worthy the temple might be accounted by them of all admiration, yet at its season it would be destroyed from its foundations, being thrown down by the power of the Romans, and all Jerusalem burnt with fire, and retribution exacted of Israel for the slaughter of the Lord. For after the Saviour’s crucifixion, such were the things which it was their lot to suffer.

They however understood not the meaning of what was said, but rather imagined that the words He spoke referred to the consummation of the world. They asked therefore, “When shall these things be? and what is the sign when they are about to happen? What therefore is Christ’s answer? He meets the view of those who put to Him the enquiry, and omitting for the present what He was saying about the capture of Jerusalem, He explains what will happen at the consummation of the world, and, so to speak, warns them and testifies, saying, “Look! Be not deceived: for many shall come in My Name, saying, that I am He, and the time is near. Go you not after them.'” For before the advent of Christ the Saviour of us all from heaven, various false Christs and false prophets will appear preceding Him, falsely assuming to themselves His person, and coming into the world like eddies of smoke springing up from a fire about to break forth. “But follow them not,” He says. For the Only-begotten Word of God consented to take upon Him our likeness, and to endure the birth in the flesh of a woman, in order that He might save all under heaven. And this to Him was an emptying of Himself, and a humiliation. For what is the measure of humanity compared with |652 the divine and supreme majesty and glory? As one therefore Who had humbled Himself to emptiness, He deigned to remain unknown, even charging the holy apostles before His precious cross that they should not reveal Him. For it was necessary that the manner of His dispensation in the flesh should remain hid, that by enduring as a man for our sakes even the precious cross, He might abolish death, and drive away Satan from his tyranny over us all. For, as Paul says; “The wisdom that was in Christ, by which is meant that which is by Christ, none of the rulers of this world knew: for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” It was necessary therefore that He should remain unknown during the time that preceded His passion: but His second advent from heaven will not happen secretly as did His coming at first, but will be illustrious and terrible. For He shall descend with the holy angels guarding Him, and in the glory of God the Father, to judge the world in righteousness. And therefore He says, “when there arise false Christs and false prophets, go you not after them.'”

And He gives them clear and evident signs of the time when the consummation of the world is now near. “For there shall be wars, He says, and tumults: and famines and pestilences everywhere: and terrors from heaven, and great signs.” For, as another evangelist says, “all the stars shall fall: and the heaven be rolled up like a scroll, and its powers shall be shaken.”

But in the middle the Saviour places what refers to the capture of Jerusalem: for He mixes the accounts together in both parts of the narrative. “For before all these things, He says, they shall lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, delivering you up to synagogues and to prisons, and bringing you before kings and rulers for My Name’s sake. But this shall prove to you a witnessing.” For before the times of consummation the land of the Jews was taken captive, being overrun by the Roman host; the temple was burnt, their national government overthrown, the means for the legal worship ceased;—-for they no longer had sacrifices, now that the temple was destroyed,—-and, as I said, the country of the Jews, together with Jerusalem itself, was utterly laid waste. And before those things happened, the blessed disciples were persecuted by them. They were imprisoned: had part in unendurable trials: were brought before judges: were sent to kings; for Paul was sent to Rome to Caesar. But these things that were brought upon them were to them for a witnessing, even to win for them the glory of martyrdom.

And He testifies to them, ‘Meditate not beforehand what defence you will make: for you shall receive of Me wisdom and a tongue which all those who stand against you shall not be able to resist or to speak against.’ And cutting away the grounds of human pusillanimity, He tells them, ‘that they shall be delivered up by brethren and friends and kinsfolk:’ but He promises that certainly and altogether He will deliver them, saying, that “a hair of your head shall not perish.”

And, to make His prediction yet again more clear, and more plainly to mark the time of its capture, He says, “When you have seen Jerusalem girt about with armies, then know that its destruction is nigh.” And afterwards again He transfers His words from this subject to the time of the consummation, and says; “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity: from the sound of the sea, and its surging, as the souls of men depart: from fear and expectation of the things which are coming upon the world: for the hosts of heaven shall be shaken.” For inasmuch as creation begins, so to speak, to be changed, and brings unendurable terrors upon the inhabitants of earth, there will be a certain fearful tribulation, and a departing of souls to death. For the unendurable fear of those things that are coming will suffice for the destruction of many.

“Then, He says, they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Christ therefore will come not secretly nor obscurely, but as God and Lord, in glory such as becomes Deity; and will transform all things for the better. For He will renew creation, and refashion the nature of man to that which it was at the beginning. “For when these things, He says, come to pass, lift up your heads, and look upwards: for your redemption is near.” For the dead shall rise, and this earthly and infirm body shall put off corruption, and shall clothe itself with incorruption by Christ’s gift, Who grants to those that believe in Him to be conformed to the likeness of His glorious body. As therefore His disciple says, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief; in which the heavens indeed shall suddenly pass away, and the elements being on fire shall be dissolved, and the earth and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up.” And further, he adds thereunto, “Since therefore all these things are being dissolved, what sort of persons ought we to be, that we may be found holy, and without blame, and unreproved before Him?” And Christ also Himself says, “Be you therefore always watching, supplicating that you may be able to escape from all those things that are about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.” “For we shall all stand before His judgment seat,” to give an account of those things that we have done. But in that He is good and loving to mankind, Christ will show mercy on those that love Him; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. (Commentary on Luke, Sermon CXXXIX)

Pope St. Gregory the Great ca. 540-604

No one who has ever read the story of the destruction of Jerusalem brought about by the Roman rulers Vespasian and Titus is ignorant that it occasioned the Lord’s weeping. This is the literal explanation of these things…We read that the ‘days shall come upon thee that enemies shall put a rampart around thee (Lk. 19:43a).’ (Gospel Homilies, 357: Hom. 39 P.L. 76)

St. Maximus the Confessor 580-662 a.d.

From the passions embedded in the soul the demons take their starting base to stir up passionate thoughts in us. Then, by making war on the mind through them they force it to go along and consent to sin. When it is overcome they lead it on to a sin of thought, and when this is accomplished they finally bring it as a prisoner to the deed. After this, at length, the demons who have devastated the soul through thoughts withdraws with them. In the mind there remains only the idol of sin about which the Lord says, “When you see the abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place, let him who reads understand.” Man’s mind is a holy place and a temple of God in which the demons have laid waste the soul through passionate thoughts and set up the idol of sin. That these things have already happened in history no one who has read Josephus can, I think, doubt, though some say that these things will also happen when Antichrist comes.  (2nd Century on Love, 31)

St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 7th cent. a.d.

Rev. 7:2-3a And I saw another angel ascending from the place ofthe rising ofthe sun, having the seal ofthe living God. And he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom had been given (power) to harm the earth and the sea, “saying,

Just as it had been revealed to Ezekiel long ago about the one dressed in fine linen who sealed the foreheads of those who groan so that the righteous would not be destroyed together with the unrighteous; because the hidden virtue of the saints is unknown even to angels; this (is) also shown here to the blessed one (John), the superior holy power urging the punishing holy angels to do nothing to those who committed offenses before the knowledge of those distinguised by the sealing who serve the truth. If this is partially taken place a long time ago, to the ones who had believed in Christ who had escaped the sack of Jerusalem by the Romans, reckoned as many tens of thousands, according to James the Great who had shown the blessed Paul their great number.

The Venerable Bede 673-735 a.d.

What he says about avarice eating up their flesh like fire and how they have stored up wrath for themselves at the last days is especially fitting for them. For it becomes evident  that was fulfilled in their case after the slaying of James himself, when the city of Jerusalem and likewise the whole province of Judea was taken and destroyed by the Romans in punishment, manifestly, for the blood of the Lord and for heinous deeds that they had commited. (Commentary on James, 5:5-6)

On the Perseverance of the Saints

John Jefferson Davis, professor of Systematic Theology and Christian ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA

The first extensive discussion of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is found in Augustine’s Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance, written in A.D. 428 or 429 in the context of the controversies with Pelagius on the issues of grace, original sin, and predestination. At the very outset Augustine affirms the grace of God as the ultimate basis for the believer’s final perseverance: “I assert….that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God.” From a human perspective it is inscrutable why, given two pious men, one should be given the grace of final perseverance and the other not. From a divine perspective it must be the case that the individual who perseveres is among the predestined while the other is not. The one who fails to persevere has not been called according to God’s plan and chosen in Christ according to God’s purpose.

God’s sovereignty in election and predestination, then, is the basis for Augustine’s understanding of final perseverance. The grace of God

“which both begins a man’s faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end is not given in respect of our merits, but is given according to His own most secret and at the same time most righteous, wise, and beneficent will; since those whom He predestinated, them He also called, with that calling of which it is said, ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ ”

Unlike Calvin and those in the later Reformed tradition, however, Augustine does not believe that the Christian can in this life know with infallible certitude that he is in fact among the elect and that he will finally persevere. According to Augustine “it is uncertain whether anyone has received this gift so long as he is still alive.” The believer’s life in this world is a state of trial, and he who seems to stand must take heed lest he fall. It is possible to experience the renewal of baptismal regeneration, and the justifying grace of God, and yet not persevere to the end. The recognition of this possibility should make the believer’s confession of faith “lowly and submissive” and lead to continued dependence on the grace of God. Augustine’s understanding of perseverance, then, reflects his understanding of the eternal predestination of God, the warning passages addressed to believers in the NT, and his sacramental theology of grace and baptismal regeneration. He held that God’s elect will certainly persevere but that one’s election could not be infallibly known in this life — and that in fact one’s justification and baptismal regeneration could be rejected and lost through sin and unbelief. Augustine’s understanding set the parameters for Aquinas, for the Council of Trent, and for the Roman Catholic tradition generally down to the present day.

…Luther’s understanding of perseverance clearly bears marks of the Roman Catholic tradition and yet differs from it on the key point of the believer’s present certitude of the experience of grace. In the context of a late medieval Church whose theology and practices mitigated against such certitude, Luther is horrified that the pope “should have entirely prohibited the certainty and assurance of divine grace.”  The preacher’s essential task is to make the hearers sure of their salvation. “If you want to preach to a person in a comforting way,” urged Luther in a midweek sermon on Matt 18:21-22, “then do it so that he who hears you is certain that he is in God’s favor, or be silent altogether.” Preachers who make their hearers doubt are “good for nothing.” Assurance that one is presently in a state of grace is foundational to the Christian life. “I must be able to say,” stated the great reformer, “I know that I have a gracious God and that my works, performed in this faith and according to this Word, are good fruits and are pleasing to Him.”

Like Augustine, Luther believed that regeneration occurred through the waters of baptism. “But,” noted the Reformer, “all of us do not remain with our baptism. Many fall away from Christ and become false Christians.” In his commentary on 2 Pet 2:22 he writes as follows on apostates in the Church: “Through baptism these people threw out unbelief, had their unclean way of life washed away, and entered into a pure life of faith and love. Now they fall away into unbelief and their own works, and they soil themselves again in filth.”

One who has experienced the justifying grace of God through faith can lose that justification through unbelief or false confidence in works. “Indeed, even the righteous man,” writes Luther in his comments on Gal 5:4, “if he presumes to be justified by those works, loses the righteousness he has and falls from the grace by which he had been justified, since he has been removed from a good land to one that is barren.”

Martin Luther shared with the Roman Catholic Church of his day the belief that the grace of baptismal regeneration and justification could be lost.

…Like Luther, Calvin believes that the Christian can enjoy moral certitude of his present state of grace. Calvin, however, has greater confidence than Luther and the Catholic tradition before him that the believer can also have great assurance of his election and final perseverance.

Calvin also differs from Luther in his understanding of regeneration. According to Calvin, once the Spirit brings a person to regeneration this reality cannot be lost.

…Calvin, Arminius and Wesley agreed that if election were unconditional, then final perseverance would logically follow as a matter of course. Augustine and Aquinas affirmed unconditional election but taught that believers did not enjoy infallible certitude of their election and hence of their final perseverance. Luther believed that the Christian could have certitude concerning the present state of grace but not concerning final perseverance. Like the Roman Catholic tradition that preceded him and the Wesleyan tradition that succeeded him, Luther did not see regeneration as inextricably linked with final salvation. The Calvinistic tradition has understood election as unconditional, regeneration as permanent, and certitude of final perseverance as a genuine possibility for the believer. (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society [JETS] 34/2 (June 1991) p. 213-228The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine by John Jefferson Davis)

Barnabas ca. 70-130

We take earnest heed in these last days; for the whole [past] time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger, as becomes the sons of God. That the Black One may find no means of entrance, let us flee from every vanity, let us utterly hate the works of the way of wickedness. Do not, by retiring apart, live a solitary life, as if you were already [fully] justified; but coming together in one place, make common inquiry concerning what tends to your general welfare. For the Scripture says, Woe to them who are wise to themselves, and prudent in their own sight! (Isa. 5:21) Let us be spiritually-minded: let us be a perfect temple to God. As much as in us lies, let us meditate upon the fear of God, and let us keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances. The Lord will judge the world without respect of persons. Each will receive as he has done: if he is righteous, his righteousness will precede him; if he is wicked, the reward of wickedness is before him. Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called [of God], we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. And all the more attend to this, my brethren, when you reflect and behold, that after so great signs and wonders were wrought in Israel, they were thus [at length] abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found [fulfilling that saying], as it is written, Many are called, but few are chosen. (Epistle of Barnabas, 4)

The Didache ca. 70-120

Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. But you shall assemble together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made complete in the last time. (Chap 16)

 

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-107

Do not err, my brethren. (Comp. Jam 1:16)Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor. 6:9-10) If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with anyone who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him. (Epistle to the Ephesians, 16)

2nd Clement ca. 100-150

Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness.” Wherefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, or speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but by being continent, compassionate, and good. We ought also to sympathize with one another, and not be avaricious. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind. And it is not fitting that we should fear men, but rather God. For this reason, if we should do such [wicked] things, the Lord hath said, “Even though ye were gathered together to me in my very bosom, yet if ye were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off, and say unto you, Depart from me; I know you not whence ye are, ye workers of iniquity.” (2 Clement 4)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

Justin well said: Before the advent of the Lord, Satan never ventured to blaspheme God, inasmuch as he was not yet sure of his own damnation, since that was announced concerning him by the prophets only in parables and allegories. But after the advent of the Lord learning plainly from the discourses of Christ and His apostles that eternal fire was prepared for him who voluntarily departed from God and for all who, without repentance, persevere in apostasy, then, by means of a man of this sort, he, as if already condemned, blasphemes that God who inflicts judgment upon him, and imputes the sin of his apostasy to his Maker, instead of to his own will and predilection. — Irenaeus: Heresies, v. 26. (Other Fragments from the Lost Writings of Justin)

Shepherd of Hermas ca. 150

For the Lord has sworn by His glory, in regard to His elect, that if any one of them sin after a certain day which has been fixed, he shall not be saved. For the repentance of the righteous has limits. Filled up are the days of repentance to all the saints; but to the heathen, repentance will be possible even to the last day. You will tell, therefore, those who preside over the Church, to direct their ways in righteousness, that they may receive in full the promises with great glory. Stand stedfast, therefore, ye who work righteousness, and doubt not, that your passage may be with the holy angels. Happy ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming on, and happy they who shall not deny their own life. For the Lord hath sworn by His Son, that those who denied their Lord have abandoned their life in despair, for even now these are to deny Him in the days that are coming. (Vision Second, Chap. II)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Some of his disciples, too, addicting themselves to the same practices, have deceived many silly women, and defiled them. They proclaim themselves as being “perfect,” so that no one can be compared to them with respect to the immensity of their knowledge, nor even were you to mention Paul or Peter, or any other of the apostles. They assert that they themselves know more than all others, and that they alone have imbibed the greatness of the knowledge of that power which is unspeakable. They also maintain that they have attained to a height above all power, and that therefore they are free in every respect to act as they please, having no one to fear in anything. For they affirm, that because of the “Redemption” it has come to pass that they can neither be apprehended, nor even seen by the judge. (Against Heresies, Bk. I, 13.6)

And truly the death of the Lord became [the means of] healing and remission of sins to the former, but Christ shall not die again in behalf of those who now commit sin, for death shall no more have dominion over Him; but the Son shall come in the glory of the Father, requiring from His stewards and dispensers the money which He had entrusted to them, with usury; and from those to whom He had given most shall He demand most. We ought not, therefore, as that presbyter remarks, to be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of old time, but ought ourselves to fear, lest perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but be shut out from His kingdom. And therefore it was that Paul said, For if [God] spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest He also spare not you, who, when you were a wild olive tree, were grafted into the fatness of the olive tree, and were made a partaker of its fatness.

As then the unrighteous, the idolaters, and fornicators perished, so also is it now: for both the Lord declares, that such persons are sent into eternal fire; Mat. 25:41 and the apostle says, Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9-10 And as it was not to those who are without that he said these things, but to us, lest we should be cast forth from the kingdom of God, by doing any such thing, he proceeds to say, And such indeed were you; but you are washed, but you are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. And just as then, those who led vicious lives, and put other people astray, were condemned and cast out, so also even now the offending eye is plucked out, and the foot and the hand, lest the rest of the body perish in like manner. Mat. 18:8-9 (Against Hereises, Bk. IV, 27.2,4)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Forgiveness of past sins, then, God gives, however, as to future sins, each one procures this for himself. And this is to repent, to condemn the past deeds, and beg oblivion of them from the Father, who only of all is able to undo what is done, by mercy proceeding from Him, and to blot out former sins by the dew of the Spirit. “For by the state in which I find you will I judge” also, is what in each case the end of all cries aloud. So that even in the case of one who has done the greatest good deeds in his life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him, since at the catastrophe of the drama he has given up his part; while it is possible for the man who formerly led a bad and dissolute life, on afterwards repenting, to overcome in the time after repentance the evil conduct of a long time. But it needs great carefulness, just as bodies that have suffered by protractred disease need regimen and special attention. Thief, do you wish to get forgiveness? steal no more. Adulterer, burn no more. Fornicator, live for the future chastely. You who has robbed, give back, and give back more than you took. False witness, practice truth. Perjurer, swear no more, and extirpate the rest of the passions, wrath, lust, grief, fear; that you may be found at the end to have previously in this world been reconciled to the adversary. It is then probably impossible all at once to eradicate inbred passions; but by God’s power and human intercession, and the help of the brethren, and sincere repentance, and constant care, they are corrected. (Who is the Rich Man That Shall be Saved? Chap. XL)

 

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Whereas the material class— in other words, those souls which are bad souls they say, never receive the blessings of salvation, for that nature they have pronounced to be incapable of any change or reform in its natural condition. This grain, then, of spiritual seed is modest and very small when cast from her hand, but under her instruction increases and advances into full conviction, as we have already said; and the souls, on this very account, so much excelled all others, that the Demiurge, even then in his ignorance, held them in great esteem. For it was from their list that he had been accustomed to select men for kings and for priests; and these even now, if they have once attained to a full and complete knowledge of these foolish conceits of theirs, since they are already naturalized in the fraternal bond of the spiritual state, will obtain a sure salvation, nay, one which is on all accounts their due. (Against the Valentinians, Chaps. 29-30)

But some think as if God were under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy, what He has engaged (to give); and they turn His liberality into slavery. But if it is of necessity that God grants us the symbol of death, then He does so unwilling. But who permits a gift to be permanently retained which he has granted unwillingly? For do not many afterward fall out of (grace)? is not this gift taken away from many? (On Repentance,6)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

Hoodwinking therefore multitudes, he led on (into enormities) many (dupes) of this description who had become his disciples, by teaching them that they were prone, no doubt, to sin, but beyond the reach of danger, from the fact of their belonging to the perfect power, and of their being participators in the inconceivable potency. And subsequent to the (first) baptism, to these they promise another, which they call Redemption. And by this (other baptism) they wickedly subvert those that remain with them in expectation of redemption, as if persons, after they had once been baptized, could again obtain remission. (The Refutation of All Heresies, Bk. VI Chap. XXXVI)

St. Cyprian of Carthage +258

He says that we are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. We pray that this sanctification may abide in us and because our Lord and Judge warns the man that was healed and quickened by Him, to sin no more lest a worse thing happen unto him, we make this supplication in our constant prayers, we ask this day and night, that the sanctification and quickening which is received from the grace of God may be preserved by His protection.

…[T]here is need of continual prayer and supplication, that we fall not away from the heavenly kingdom, as the Jews, to whom this promise had first been given, fell away; even as the Lord sets forth and proves: Many, says He, shall come from the east and from the west, and shall recline with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:11 He shows that the Jews were previously children of the kingdom, so long as they continued also to be children of God; but after the name of Father ceased to be recognised among them, the kingdom also ceased; and therefore we Christians, who in our prayer begin to call God our Father, pray also that God’s kingdom may come to us. (Treatise 4: On the Lord’s Prayer, 12-13)

St. Aphrahat the Persian ca. 270-345

Therefore, my beloved, we also have received of the Spirit of Christ, and Christ dwelleth in us, as it is written that the Spirit said this through the month of the Prophet: –I will dwell in them and will walk in them.Therefore let us prepare our temples for the Spirit of Christ, and let us not grieve it that it may not depart from us. Remember the warning that the Apostle gives us:–Grieve not the Holy Spirit whereby ye have been sealed unto the day of redemption. For from baptism do we receive the Spirit of Christ … And whatever man there is that receives the Spirit from the water (of baptism) and grieves it, it departs from him until he dies, and returns according to its nature to Christ, and accuses that man of having grieved it.
(Demonstrations,6:14)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

For what the Word has by nature, as I said, in the Father, that He wishes to be given to us through the Spirit irrevocably; which the Apostle knowing, said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ for ‘the gifts of God’ and ‘grace of His calling are without repentance.’ It is the Spirit then which is in God, and not we viewed in our own selves; and as we are sons and gods because of the Word in us, so we shall be in the Son and in the Father, and we shall be accounted to have become one in Son and in Father, because that that Spirit is in us, which is in the Word which is in the Father. When then a man falls from the Spirit for any wickedness, if he repent upon his fall, the grace remains irrevocably to such as are willing; otherwise he who has fallen is no longer in God (because that Holy Spirit and Paraclete which is in God has deserted him), but the sinner shall be in him to whom he has subjected himself, as took place in Saul’s instance; for the Spirit of God departed from him and an evil spirit was afflicting him. (Athanasius,Discourse Against the Arians,3:25)

Now, my beloved, our will ought to keep pace with the grace of God, and not fall short; lest while our will remains idle, the grace given us should begin to depart, and the enemy finding us empty and naked, should enter [into us], as was the case with him spoken of in the Gospel, from whom the devil went out; ‘for having gone through dry places, he took seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and returning and finding the house empty, he dwelt there, and the last state of that man was worse than the first. ‘ For the departure from virtue gives place for the entrance of the unclean spirit. There is, moreover, the apostolic injunction, that the grace given us should not be unprofitable; for those things which he wrote particularly to his disciple, he enforces on us through him , saying, ‘Neglect not the gift that is in you. For he who tills his land shall be satisfied with bread; but the paths of the slothful are strewn with thorns;’ so that the Spirit forewarns a man not to fall into them, saying, ‘Break up your fallow ground, sow not among thorns. ‘ For when a man despises the grace given him; and immediately falls into the cares of the world, he delivers himself over to his lusts; and thus in the time of persecution he is offended , and becomes altogether unfruitful.

Therefore the blessed Paul, when desirous that the grace of the Spirit given to us should not grow cold, exhorts, saying, ‘Quench not the Spirit 1 Thessalonians 5:19.’ For so shall we remain partakers of Christ , if we hold fast to the end the Spirit given at the beginning. For he said, ‘Quench not;’ not because the Spirit is placed in the power of men, and is able to suffer anything from them; but because bad and unthankful men are such as manifestly wish to quench it, since they, like the impure, persecute the Spirit with unholy deeds. ‘For the holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit, nor dwell in a body that is subject unto sin; but will remove from thoughts that are without understanding Wisdom 1:5.’(Letter 3.3-4)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Terrible in good truth is the judgment, and terrible the things announced. The kingdom of heaven is set before us, and everlasting fire is prepared. How then, some one will say, are we to escape the fire? And how to enter into the kingdom? I was an hungered, He says, and ye gave Me meat. Learn hence the way; there is here no need of allegory, but to fulfil what is said. I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. These things if thou do, thou shall reign together with Him; but if thou do them not, thou shalt be condemned. At once then begin to do these works, and abide in the faith; lest, like the foolish virgins, tarrying to buy oil, thou be shut out. (Catechetical Lectures,15:26)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

Question: Can a man fall who has the gift of grace?

Answer: If he is careless, he certainly falls. For the enemies never take a rest nor do they withdraw from the war. How much more you ought not to cease seeking God! For a very great loss comes to you if you are careless, even though you may seem to be confirmed in the very mystery of grace. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 15.16)

Do you not hear what Paul says? “If I have all gifts, if I hand my body over to be burnt, if I should speak with the tongues of angels and, yet, I have no charity, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1) These gifts really are to encourage us. And those who settle for these, even though they are in the light, they still are infants. For many of the brothers have reached this degree and enjoyed the gifts of healings and revelation and prophecy. But because they did not reach perfect charity, which is the “bond of perfection” (Col. 3:18), war came upon them and, because they were negligent, they fell. (ibid., Homily 26.16)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Let us admonish each other. Let us correct each other, that we may not go to the other world as debtors, and then, needing to borrow of others, suffer the fate of the foolish virgins, and fall from immortal salvation. (Concerning Statues, 21)

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

But if someone already regenerate and justified should, of his own will, relapse into his evil life, certainly that man cannot say: “I have not received’; because he lost the grace he received from God and by his own free choice went to evil. (Admonition and Grace: 6,9)

St. Vincent of Lerins + 445

But what do they say? “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;” that is,. If thou wouldst be a son of God, and wouldst receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast thyself down; that is, cast thyself down from the doctrine and tradition of that sublime Church, which is imagined to be nothing less than the very temple of God. And if one should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, How do you prove? What ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? he has the answer ready, “For it is written;” and forthwith he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy. Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended. (Commonitory 26)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

Just as good works are to be referred to Him that inspires them, God, so too evil works are to be referred to those who are sinning. For sinners have not been abandoned by God so that they may themselves abandon God; rather, they have abandoned and have been abandoned and have been changed from good to evil by their own will; and consequently, although they may have been reborn, although they may have been justified, they are not, however, predestined by Him who foreknew what kind of persons they would be. (Responses on behalf of Augustine to the Articles of Objections Raised by his Calumniators in Gaul, 3)

Since there can be no doubt that perserverance in good even to the end is a gift of God, which, it is clear, some, from the very fact that they have not perservered, never had, it is no way a calumniation of God to say that these were not given what was given to others; rather it is to be confessed both that He gave mercifully what He did give, and He withheld justly what He did not give, so that, although the cause of man’s falling away originates in free choice, the cause of his standing firm does not likewise have its origins in himself. If falling away is done by human effort, standing firm is accomplished by means of a divine gift. (ibid., 7)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Now, we should understand that ababdonment by God of a person’s soul aslo happens frequently if one chooses not to perform what is commanded and produce the fruits of piety toward Him by submitting his neck to the Lord’s pronouncements. Even if styled son or daughter of God, even if becoming Sion, which means lookout, that is, possessing elevated thinking and a pure mind capable of nderstanding mysteries, and then does what is wrong and is guilty of provoking the Holy One of Israel, it will be abandoned by Him and like an unprotected vineyard it will be given over to to Satan and the sufferings of the flesh, shown to be bereft of every virtue, stripped of the priviliges proper to a good lifestyle, and filled with every evil. (Commentary on Isaiah)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

The manifold mercy of God so assists men when they fall, that not only by the grace of baptism but also by the remedy of penitence is the hope of eternal life revived, in order that they who have violated the gifts of the second birth, condemning themselves by their own judgment, may attain to remission of their crimes, the provisions of the Divine Goodness having so ordained that God’s indulgence cannot be obtained without the supplications of priests. For the Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, has transmitted this power to those that are set over the Church that they should both grant a course of penitence to those who confess, and, when they are cleansed by wholesome correction admit them through the door of reconciliation to communion in the sacraments. In which work assuredly the Saviour Himself unceasingly takes part and is never absent from those things, the carrying out of which He has committed to His ministers, saying: Lo, I am with you all the days even to the completion of the age Mat. 28:20: so that whatever is accomplished through our service in due order and with satisfactory results we doubt not to have been vouchsafed through the Holy Spirit. (Letter 108.2)

St. Faustus of Riez ca. 407-493

We assert that whoever is lost is lost by his own volition, but that he could have obtained salvation by grace had he cooperated with it. On the other hand, whoever, by means of [this] cooperation attains perfection may, of his own fault, his own negligence, fall and lose it and [become] lost. Certainly we exclude all personal boasting, for we declare that all that we have has been gratuitously received from God’s hand. (Epistle to Lucidus, LIII:683)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

We say, then, that the goodness of the divine blessedness, while forever remaining similar to and like itself, nevertheless generously grants the beneficient rays of its own light to whoever views it with the eyes of the intelligence. But it can happen that intelligent beings, because of their free will, can fall away from the light of the mind and can so desire what is evil that they close off that vision, with its natural capacity for illumination. They remove themselves from the light which is ceaselessly proferred to them and which, far from abandoning them, shines on their unseeing eyes. With typical goodness that light hastens to follow them even when they turn away from it. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, III.3)

St. John Climacus ca. 525-606

Do not be self-confident before judgment has been passed on you. Remember the guest at the marriage feast. He got there, and then, tied hand and foot, he was thrown into the dark outside (Matt.23:13). So do not be stiff-necked, since you are a material being. Many although holy and unencumbered by a body were thrown out even from heaven. (The Divine Ladder: Step 23, On Pride)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogos ca. 540-604

And they who mourn their transgressions certainly cast forth by confession the wickedness with which they have been evilly satiated, and which oppressed the inmost parts of their soul; and yet, in recurring to it after confession, they take it in again. But the sow, by wallowing in the mire when washed, is made more filthy. I and one who mourns past transgressions, yet forsakes them not, subjects himself to the penalty of more grievous sin, since he both despises the very pardon which he might have won by his weeping, and as it were rolls himself in miry water; because in withholding purity of life from his weeping he makes even his very tears filthy before the eyes of God. (Pastoral Rule, 30)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Do not lend your ear to the slanderer’s tongue nor your tongue to the fault-finder’s ear by readily speaking or listening to anything against yor neighbor. Otherwise you will fall away from divine love and be found excluded from eternal life. (The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, First Century: 58)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

We are of God by His grace and we are reborn in baptism through faith and kept that we may remain for a long time in faith. But the lovers of the world are subject to the malicious enemy either because they have never been freed from his sovereignty by the waters of rebirth or because sinning again after the grace of rebirth they have been brought again under his sovereignty. (Commentary on 1st John 5:18-19)

For in Egypt He first so saved the humble who cried out to Him from their affliction that He might afterword bring low the proud who murmured against Him in the desert. He stresses this so much that we may remember even now that He so saves believers through the waters of baptism, which the Red Sea foreshadowed, that He demands a humble life of us even after baptism and one seperated from the filth of vices, such as the hidden way of life of the desert quite properly pointed to. If anyone actually profanes this life, either by departing from the faith or by acting evilly, being turned away in heart, as it were to Egypt, he will deserve not to reach the fatherland of the kingdom but to persih among the ungodly. (Commentary on Jude 5-6)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The remission of sins, therefore, is granted alike to all through baptism: but the grace of the Spirit is proportional to the faith and previous purification. Now, indeed, we receive the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit through baptism, and the second birth is for us the beginning and seal and security and illumination of another life. It behoves as, then, with all our strength to steadfastly keep ourselves pure from filthy works, that we may not, like the dog returning to his vomit, make ourselves again the slaves of sin. (On the Orthodox Faith, 4:9)

On Irresistible Grace and Synergy

Philip Schaff 1819-1893

The Augustinian system was unknown in the ante-Nicene age, and was never accepted in the Eastern Church. This is a strong historical argument against it. Augustin himself developed it only during the Pelagian controversy; while in his earlier writings he taught the freedom of the human will against the fatalism of the Manichaeans. (History of the Christian Church VIII The Theology of Calvin § 112. The Calvinistic System)

…[N]o man is saved mechanically or by force, but through faith, freely, by accepting the gift of God. This implies the contrary power of rejecting the gift. To accept is no merit, to reject is ingratitude and guilt. All Calvinistic preachers appeal to man’s responsibility. They pray as if everything depended on God; and yet they preach and work as if everything depended on man. And the Church is directed to send the gospel to every creature. We pray for the salvation of all men, but not for the loss of a single human being. Christ interceded even for his murderers on the cross.

Here, then, is a practical difficulty. The decree of reprobation cannot be made an object of prayer or preaching, and this is an argument against it. Experience confirms election, but repudiates reprobation.

[T]here is a logic of ethics as well as of metaphysics. God is holy as well as almighty and omniscient, and therefore cannot be the author of sin. Man is a moral as well as an intellectual being, and the claims of his moral constitution are equal to the claims of his intellectual constitution. Conscience is as powerful a factor as reason. The most rigid believer in divine sovereignty, if he be a Christian, cannot get rid of the sense of personal accountability, though he may be unable to reconcile the two. The harmony lies in God and in the moral constitution of man. They are the two complementary sides of one truth. Paul unites them in one sentence: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The problem, however, comes within the reach of possible solution, if we distinguish between sovereignty as an inherent power, and the exercise of sovereignty. God may limit the exercise of his sovereignty to make room for the free action of his creatures. It is by his sovereign decree that man is free. Without such self-limitation he could not admonish men to repent and believe. Here, again, the Calvinistic logic must either bend or break. Strictly carried out, it would turn the exhortations of God to the sinner into a solemn mockery and cruel irony. (History of the Christian Church VIII The Theology of Calvin § 114. Calvinism examined.)

Alister Mcgrath

The main external threat to the church, particularly during the second century, appears to be pagan or semi-pagan fatalism, such as Gnosticism, which propagated the thesis that humans are responsible neither for their own sins nor for the evils in the world. It is quite possible that what some consider to be the curious and disturbing tendency of some of the early fathers to minimise original sin and emphasise the freedom of fallen humanity is a consequence of their anti-Gnostic polemic. While it is true that the beginnings of a doctrine of grace may be discerned during this early period, its generally optimistic estimation of the capacities fallen humanity has led at least some scholars to question whether it can be regarded as truly Christian in this respect.

The pre-Augustinian theological tradition is practically of one voice in asserting the freedom of the human will.

While there is still uncertainty concerning the precise nature of Gnosticism, it may be noted that a strongly fatalist or necessitarian outlook appears to be characteristic of the chief Gnostic systems. Far from recognising the  limitations of humanity’s free will, many early fathers enthusiastically proclaimed its freedom and self-determination (autoexousia)…God cannot be said to force the free will, but merely influence it. While God does not wish people to do evil, He cannot compel them to do good. (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, pg. 34-35)

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-107

As persons who are perfect, you should also aim at those things which are perfect. For when you are desirous to do well, God is also ready to assist you. (Letter to the Smyrneans 11)

Mathetes ca. 130

This [messenger] He sent to them. Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing? (Letter to Diognetus Chap. VII)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons ca. 2nd cent.-202

…Paul the Apostle says to the Corinthians, Do you not know, that they who run in a racecourse, do all indeed run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. Every one also who engages in the contest is temperate in all things: now these men [do it] that they may obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. But I so run, not as uncertainty; I fight, not as one beating the air; but I make my body livid, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when preaching to others, I may myself be rendered a castaway. 1 Cor. 9:24-27 This able wrestler, therefore, exhorts us to the struggle for immortality, that we may be crowned, and may deem the crown precious, namely, that which is acquired by our struggle, but which does not encircle us of its own accord (sed non ultro coalitam). And the harder we strive, so much is it the more valuable; while so much the more valuable it is, so much the more should we esteem it. And indeed those things are not esteemed so highly which come spontaneously, as those which are reached by much anxious care. (Against Heresies, Bk.IV:37:7)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

But the Lord replies, Because what is impossible with men is possible with God. This again is full of great wisdom. For a man by himself working and toiling at freedom from passion achieves nothing. But if he plainly shows himself very desirous and earnest about this, he attains it by the addition of the power of God. For God conspires with willing souls. But if they abandon their eagerness, the spirit which is bestowed by God is also restrained. For to save the unwilling is the part of one exercising compulsion; but to save the willing, that of one showing grace. Nor does the kingdom of heaven belong to sleepers and sluggards, but the violent take it by force. For this alone is commendable violence, to force God, and take life from God by force. And He, knowing those who persevere firmly, or rather violently, yields and grants. For God delights in being vanquished in such things. (Who is the Rich Man That is Saved? XXI)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

Such is our faith, O all ye men,–ours, I say, who are not persuaded by empty expressions, nor caught away by sudden impulses of the heart, nor beguiled by the plausibility of eloquent discourses, yet who do not refuse to obey words that have been uttered by divine power. And these injunctions has God given to the Word. But the Word, by declaring them, promulgated the divine commandments, thereby turning man from disobedience, not bringing him into servitude by force of necessity, but summoning him to liberty through a choice involving spontaneity. (Refutation of All Heresies, Bk. X, Chap. 29)

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

In the book of Psalms— in the Songs of Degrees, which are ascribed to Solomon— the following statement occurs: Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. By which words he does not indeed indicate that we should cease from building or watching over the safe keeping of that city which is within us; but what he points out is this, that whatever is built without God, and whatever is guarded without him, is built in vain, and guarded to no purpose. For in all things that are well built and well protected, the Lord is held to be the cause either of the building or of its protection. As if, e.g., we were to behold some magnificent structure and mass of splendid building reared with beauteous architectural skill, would we not justly and deservedly say that such was built not by human power, but by divine help and might? And yet from such a statement it will not be meant that the labour and industry of human effort were inactive, and effected nothing at all. Or again, if we were to see some city surrounded by a severe blockade of the enemy, in which threatening engines were brought against the walls, and the place hard pressed by a vallum, and weapons, and fire, and all the instruments of war, by which destruction is prepared, would we not rightly and deservedly say, if the enemy were repelled and put to flight, that the deliverance had been wrought for the liberated city by God? And yet we would not mean, by so speaking, that either the vigilance of the sentinels, or the alertness of the young men, or the protection of the guards, had been wanting. And the apostle also must be understood in a similar manner, because the human will alone is not sufficient to obtain salvation; nor is any mortal running able to win the heavenly (rewards), and to obtain the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus, unless this very good will of ours, and ready purpose, and whatever that diligence within us may be, be aided or furnished with divine help. And therefore most logically did the apostle say, that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy; in the same manner as if we were to say of agriculture what is actually written: I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase. As, therefore, when a field has brought good and rich crops to perfect maturity, no one would piously and logically assert that the husbandman had made those fruits, but would acknowledge that they had been produced by God; so also is our own perfection brought about, not indeed by our remaining inactive and idle, (but by some activity on our part): and yet the consummation of it will not be ascribed to us, but to God, who is the first and chief cause of the work. (De Principiis, Bk. III, 1.18)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

Let us, therefore, in the faith of the disciples, hold frequent converse with our Master. For the world is like the sea to us, my brethren, 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 every one 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. The unbelieving therefore ‘when affliction or persecution arises is offended Mark 4:17,’ as the Lord said. For not being confirmed in the faith, and having his regard towards temporal things, he cannot resist the difficulties which arise from afflictions. But like that house, built on the sand by the foolish man, so he, being without understanding Luke 6:49, falls before the assault of temptations, as it were by the winds. But the saints, having their senses exercised in self-possession Hebrews 5:14, and being strong in faith, and understanding the word, do not faint under trials; but although, from time to time, circumstances of greater trial are set against them, yet they continue faithful, and awaking the Lord Who is with them, they are delivered. (Letter 19.7)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

To perservere in faith is certainly a gift from God; but the first stirring of faith has its beginning in us. Our will must be such that, properly and of itself, it wills. God will give the increase after a beginning has been made. Our weakness is such that we cannot of ourselves carry through to completion; but the reward of growing to completion is in view of a beginning made in the will.

Human weakness is imbecillic if it expects to achieve anything by itself. The duty of such a nature is simply this: to make a beginning with the will, so as to attach itself to the service of God. Divine mercy is such that it aids those who are willing, strengthens those who are beginning, and assists those who are attempting. The beginning, however, is our part, that He may bring it to perfection. (Commentaries on the Psalms, 118 [119])

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

The present is the season of confession: confess what you have done in word or in deed, by night or by day; confess in an acceptable time, and in the day of salvation 2 Cor. 6:2 receive the heavenly treasure. Devote your time to the Exorcisms: be assiduous at the Catechisings, and remember the things that shall be spoken, for they are spoken not for your ears only, but that by faith you may seal them up in the memory. Blot out from your mind all earthly care: for you are running for your soul. You are utterly forsaking the things of the world: little are the things which you are forsaking, great what the Lord is giving. Forsake things present, and put your trust in things to come. Have you run so many circles of the years busied in vain about the world, and have you not forty days to be free (for prayer ), for your own soul’s sake? Be still , and know that I am God, says the Scripture. Excuse yourself from talking many idle words: neither backbite, nor lend a willing ear to backbiters; but rather be prompt to prayer. Show in ascetic exercise that your heart is nerved. Cleanse your vessel, that you may receive grace more abundantly. For though remission of sins is given equally to all, the communion of the Holy Ghost is bestowed in proportion to each man’s faith. If you have laboured little, you receive little; but if you have wrought much, the reward is great. You are running for yourself, see to your own interest. (Catechetical Lectures, 1.5)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

“It is a question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God’s showing mercy” (Rom. 9:16)…There are ome people who are so proud of their successes that they attribute everything to themselves and nothing to Him who made them and gave them wisdom and supplied them with good things. Let them learn of this saying that even to wish someone well requires God’s help; or rather, that even to choose what is right is something divine and a gift of God’s benevolence to man. That we be saved requires something from us and from God. That is why it says, “Not of him who wills”; that is, not only of him who wills; and not only of him who runs, but also God’s showing mercy. Since to will is also from God, it reasonable that Paul attributed the whole to God. However well you may run, however well you may wrestle, you still need Him who gives the crown. (Oration 37, 13)

St. Gregory Nyssa ca. 335-395

Yet, even in their reply to this, or the like, they are not at a loss for a contentious rejoinder. For they assert that God, if He had been so pleased, might have forcibly drawn those, who were not inclined to yield, to accept the Gospel message. But where then would have been their free will? Where their virtuous merit? Where their need of praise from their moral directors? It belongs only to inanimate or irrational creatures to be brought round by the will of another to his purpose; whereas the reasoning and intelligent nature, if it lays aside its freedom of action, loses at the same time the gracious gift of intellect. For upon what is he to employ any faculty of thought, if his power of choosing anything according to his inclination lies in the will of another? But then, if the will remains without the capacity of action, virtue necessarily disappears, since it is shackled by the enforced quiescence of the will. Then, if virtue does not exist, life loses its value, reason moves in accordance with fatalism, the praise of moral guardians is gone, sin may be indulged in without risk, and the difference between the courses of life is obliterated. For who, henceforth, could with any reason condemn profligacy, or praise sobriety? Since every one would have this ready answer, that nothing of all the things we are inclined to is in our own power, but that by some superior and ruling influence the wills of men are brought round to the purpose of one who has the mastery over them. The conclusion, then is that it is not the goodness of God that is chargeable with the fact that the Faith is not engendered in all men, but rather the disposition of those by whom the preaching of the Word is received. (The Great Catechism, XXXI)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-409

Is it not perfectly clear that anyone can, by his own choice, choose either wickedness or virtue? For if this were not the case, and if such a faculty did not pertain to our nature, it were not right that some be punished while other receive the reward of virtue. But since everything depend, after grace from above, upon our own choice, so too are punishments prepared for sinners and recompense and reward for those who do right. (Homilies on Genesis, 22,1)

God awaits occasions to show us His great liberality. Let us not by laziness, then, defraud ourselve of Hi gift, but hasten and be eager to begin to take the path that leads back to virtue, so that, enjoying help from above, we may be strengthened to perservere to the end; for unles we are assisted from above it is impossible for us to do right at any time. (ibid., 25,7)

That it is not because we are not able but because we are not willing that we are strangers to all His benefit is made perfectly clear by the fact that many men of the same race as ourselves are found to be shining examples of virtue. Such a one was the Patriarch [Abraham] himself, born before grace and before the law. By himself and by the knowledge that is inherent in our nature he came to so great a measure of virtue as to be able to deprive us of all our excuses. But perhaps some will say that this man enjoyed a great measure of God’s solicitous care, and that the God of the universe showered His coniderable providence in Abraham’ regard. Yes, I agree. But if Abraham had not shown beforehand what was his own, He would not have enjoyed the thing from the Master. Do not conider the latter only, therefore, but examine each case and learn how in every one of them proof was first given of personal virtue, and thus did they merit the help of God. (ibid., 42,1)

If He lights every man that comes into the world, how is it that so many continue unenlightened? For not all have known the majesty of Christ. How then does He light every man? He lights all as far as in Him lies. But if some, wilfully closing the eyes of their mind, would not receive the rays of that Light, their darkness arises not from the nature of the Light, but from their own wickedness, who willfully deprive themselves of the gift. For the grace is shed forth upon all, turning itself back neither from Jew, nor Greek, nor Barbarian, nor Scythian, nor free, nor bond, nor male, nor female, nor old, nor young, but admitting all alike, and inviting with an equal regard. And those who are not willing to enjoy this gift, ought in justice to impute their blindness to themselves; for if when the gate is opened to all, and there is none to hinder, any being willfully evil remain without, they perish through none other, but only through their own wickedness. (Homilies on John, 8.1)

Beloved, God being loving towards man and beneficent, does and contrives all things in order that we may shine in virtue, and as desiring that we be well approved by Him. And to this end He draws no one by force or compulsion: but by persuasion and benefits He draws all that will, and wins them to Himself. Wherefore when He came, some received Him, and others received Him not. For He will have no unwilling, no forced domestic, but all of their own will and choice, and grateful to Him for their service. Men, as needing the ministry of servants, keep many in that state even against their will, by the law of ownership; but God, being without wants, and not standing in need of anything of ours, but doing all only for our salvation makes us absolute in this matter, and therefore lays neither force nor compulsion on any of those who are unwilling. For He looks only to our advantage: and to be drawn unwilling to a service like this is the same as not serving at all. (ibid., 10.1)

For when he says, Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace; he shows that they also were saved by grace. And not hereby only, but likewise by saying, I have reserved unto Myself. For this is the language of One Who shows that He Himself was the chief Contributor. And if by grace, it will be said, how came we all not to be saved? Because ye would not. For grace, though it be grace, saves the willing, not those who will not have it, and turn away from it, who persist in fighting against it, and opposing themselves to it. (Homily on Romans, 18)

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

When God sees in us the beginnings of a good will, He enlightens it at once and strengthens it and urges it on towards salvation, giving increase to that which either He Himself implanted or which He sees has arisen by our own efforts. (Conferences, 2.13)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

But having said above, No man can come to Me, except the Father Which sent Me draw him, He shews that it is not a compulsory nor forcible drawing, adding, Every man that hath heard of My Father and hath learned, cometh unto Me.

For where there is hearing and learning and the benefit of instruction, there is faith, to wit by persuasion and not of necessity: and the knowledge of Christ is given by the Father to them that are worthy, helpful as of love, rather than constraining. For the word of doctrine requires that free-will and free choice be preserved to the soul of man, in order that it may ask the just rewards of its good deeds, and if it have fallen from right, and from heedlessness have transgressed the Will of the Lawgiver, it may receive the doom of its transgression and that most reasonable. (Commentary of the Gospel of John, Bk. IV, Chap. 1)

He says that He so kept His disciples, and had such care for them, that none of them was lost save one, whom He called the son of perdition; as though he were doomed to destruction of his own choice, or rather his own wickedness and impiety. For it is inconceivable that the traitor disciple was by a Divine and irresistible decree entangled, as it were, in the snare of the fowler, and brought within the devil’s noose; for then would he surely have been guiltless when he succumbed to the verdict of heaven. For who shall oppose the decree of God? And now he is condemned and accursed, and it would have been better for him if he had never been born. And why? Surely the wretched man met his doom as a consequence of his own volitions, and is not convicted by destiny. He that was so enamoured of destruction may well be called a son of perdition, inasmuch as he merited ruin and corruption, and ever awaits the day of perdition as fraught with anguish and lamentation. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Bk. XI, Chap. 9)

Since the nature of man is none too firm, nor has it sufficient strength to be able to win out against vice, God give it sufficiency and He assists in the struggle. Thus it is seen that it had double grace to nourish it: for it is persuaded by admonition and dicovers assistance, and it does better than the present and tyrannizing vice. (Worship and Adoration in Spirit and in Truth, 1)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

There is need of both our efforts and the divine succour. The grace of the Spirit is not vouchsafed to those who make no effort, and without that grace our efforts cannot collect the prize of virtue. (In Ps. 31, 10 f.; 36, 23 f., in Kelly pg. 374)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

In truth God seeks neither virgin nor married woman, neither monk nor layman, but a free intent, accepting it as the deed itself, and He grants to the free will of every man the grace of the Holy Spirit, which operates in a man and directs the life of everyone who desires to be saved. (Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Christians possess a glory and beauty and an indescribable heavenly richness that come to them with hard work and sweat, acquired in times of temptations and in many trials. All of this must be ascribed to divine grace. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 5.5)

Stand firm, therefore, and think what providence has been working on your behalf. We take an example from human life since we still live in such a manner. Suppose a king came upon a certain poor person, very sick. He is not embarrased to treat his wounds with healing medicines. And when he brings him to his palace, he clothes him with the royal purple and the diadem and shares his table with him. In a similar way the heavenly King, Christ, came to suffering man and healed him. He made him a companion at his royal table. And this he does, not by forcefully constraining man’s will, but by attraction he establishes him in so great a dignity. (ibid., Homily 15.30)

Therefore, since certain persons insist that once they have accepted grace, they need have no further solicitude. But God demands even in those perfect the soul’s will to cooperate in the service of the Spirit, namely, that they freely consent. For the Apostle says: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19)…Do you see how in the matter of perfection, goodwill toward God (which is developed along with our own cooperating natural will) is found superior and richer? (ibid., Homily 17.8)

St. Vincent of Lerins + 445

Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended. (Commonitory Chap. XXVI)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

The good we do is both of God and of ourselves. It is God’s through prevenient grace, ours through obedient free will. For if it is not God’s, why do we give thanks to Him in eternity? And again, if it is not our’s, why do we hope that a reward will be given us? It is not improper that we give thanks; for we know that we were anticipated by God’s gift. And again, it is not improper that we seek a reward, because we know that by obedient free will we choose to do what is good. (Moral Teachings from Job, 33:21,40)

If whatever good there is in us is a gift of Almighty God, so that in our virtues there is nothing of our own, why do we seek eternal reward, as if for merits? But if such goodness as we have is not the gift of Almighty God, why do we give thanks for it to Almighty God? It must be understood that our wickednesses are entirely our own, but our goodnesses pertain to Almighty God and ourselves; for He anticipates us with inspiration so that we may will, and He follows us with His support, so that we do not will in vain, but may be able to carry out what we will. By prevenient grace, therefore, and by subsequent good will, that which is a gift of Almighty God becomes our merit. (Homilies on Ezechiel 1:9,2)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

In bringing into existence a rational and intelligent nature, God in His supreme goodness has communicated to it four of the divine attributes by which He maintains, guards, and preserves creatures: being, eternal being, goodness and wisdom. The first two of these He grants to the essence, the second two to its faculty of will; that is, to the essence He gives being and eternal being, and to the volitive faculty He gives goodness and wisdom in order that what He is by essence the creature may become by participation. For this reason he is said to be made “to the image and likeness of God”: to the image of His being by our being, to the image of His eternal being by our eternal being (even though not without a beginning, it is yet without end); to the likeness of His goodness by our goodness, to the image of His wisdom by our wisdom. The first is by nature, the second by grace. Every rational nature indeed is made to the image of God; but only those who are good and wise are made to the likeness. (The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, Third Century: 25)

Only God is good by nature, and only the one who imitates God is good by his own will. His plan is to join the wicked to Himself Who is good by nature in order that they may become good. So, then, when he is reviled by them, he blesses them; when persecuted, he endures; when slandered, he entreats; when put to death, he interecedes for them. He does all things in order not to fall away from the purpose of love, which is our God Himself. (ibid., Fourth Century: 90)

He gives adoption by giving through the Spirit a supernatural birth from on high in grace, of which divine birth the guardian and preserver is the free will of those who are born. By a sincere disposition it cherishes the grace bestowed and by a careful observance of the commandments it adorns the beauty given by grace. By the humbling of the passions it takes on divinity in the same measure that the Word of God willed to empty Himself in the incarnation of His own unmixed glory in becoming genuinely human. (Commentary on the Our Father, Prologue 2.)

St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 6th cent.

Rev. 6:6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

The command do not harm oil and wine means to not disregard the healing through returning to Christ, which healed the one who has fallen among robbers, in order that those who through long suffering were about to renew the fight would not be carried off by death. Therefore, so that we too will gain, for the disease of our souls, the Physician-God who loves mankind, let us hurry to be such for our fallen brothers, by offering to them the oil of sympathy mingled with the wine of exhortation, in order that the maimed parts not worsen but be healed, according to the divine Apostle, so that becoming co-worker with God, we will delight forever in his blesings, by the grace and philanthropy of our Lord Jesus with whom glory (is due) together with the Father, with the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Commentary on the Apocalypse)

Rev. 22:17 And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.

For thirst is necessary for the drink of life for the firm possession of the one who has acquired it, especially because it is also granted as a gift, not to those who did not toil at all, but to those who offered not things worthy of the greatness of the gift but only a genuine and fiery resolve instead of gold and silver and pains of the body. (ibid.)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Jas 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

All saving wisdom, indeed, must be begged from the Lord, because as the wise man says, All wisdom is from the Lord God and was always with him(Sir.1:1), and no one is able to understand and be wise of his own free will without the help of divine grace, although the Pelagians argue alot [ about this ]. (Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

We must recognize that while God foreknows all things, He does not predestine all things. He foreknows the things that depend upon us, but He does not predestine those things. He does not will the doing of evil, nor does He compel virtue. (The Fount of Knowledge, Bk. III: 2,30)

God Himself has given us the power of doing good. And He made us self-determining so that the good might be produced both from Himself and from us. Whenever a choice is made that prefers the good, God is cooperating in the good in such a way that we do thing that are, while consistent with our nature, yet above our nature. (The Two Wills in Christ, 19)

Synod of Jerusalem 1672 a.d.

And we understand the use of free-will thus, that the Divine and illuminating grace, and which we call preventing grace, being, as a light to those in darkness, by the Divine goodness imparted to all, to those that are willing to obey this — for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling — and co-operate with it, in what it requireth as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace; which, co-operating with us, and enabling us, and making us perseverant in the love of God, that is to say, in performing those good things that God would have us to do, and which His preventing grace admonisheth us that we should do, justifieth us, and maketh us predestinated. But those who will not obey, and co-operate with grace; and, therefore, will not observe those things that God would have us perform, and that abuse in the service of Satan the free-will, which they have received of God to perform voluntarily what is good, are consigned to eternal condemnation. (Confession of Dositheus, Decree III)

St. Silouan the Athonite 1866-1938

The grace of God does not take away freedom but only helps man to fulfil God’s commandments. Adam knew grace but he could still exercise his will. Thus, too, the angels abide in the Holy Spirit, and yet are not deprived of free-will. (Archimandrite Sophrony, St. Silouan the Athonite: Chap. VI, pg. 342)

 

On Divine Fire

Tertullian ca. 160-220
  
When, therefore, the boundary and limit, that millennial interspace, has been passed, when even the outward fashion of the world itself— which has been spread like a veil over the eternal economy, equally a thing of time— passes away, then the whole human race shall be raised again, to have its dues meted out according as it has merited in the period of good or evil, and thereafter to have these paid out through the immeasurable ages of eternity. Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged— the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire— that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. (Apology 48)
  
St. Ephrem of Syrian ca. 306-373
  
Praise to the Just One
who rules with His grace;
He is the Good One who never draws in
the limits of His goodness;
even to the wicked
He stretches forth in His compassion.
His divine cloud hovers over
all that is His;
it drips dew even on that fire of punishment
so that, of His mercy,
it enables even the embittered
to taste of the drops of its refreshment.
(Hymns on Paradise, X)
 
St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389
 
For I know a cleansing fire which Christ came to send upon the earth, Lk. 12:49 and He Himself is anagogically called a Fire. This Fire takes away whatsoever is material and of evil habit; and this He desires to kindle with all speed, for He longs for speed in doing us good, since He gives us even coals of fire to help us. I know also a fire which is not cleansing, but avenging; either that fire of SodomGenesis 19:24 which He pours down on all sinners, mingled with brimstone and storms, or that which is prepared for the Devil and his Angels Matt. 25:41 or that which proceeds from the face of the Lord, and shall burn up his enemies round about; and one even more fearful still than these, the unquenchable fire which is ranged with the worm that dies not but is eternal for the wicked. For all these belong to the destroying power; though some may prefer even in this place to take a more merciful view of this fire, worthily of Him That chastises. (Oration 40: On Holy Baptism, Chap. XXXVI)
 
St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379
  
“The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire.” (Ps. 28[29]:7) …I believe that the fire prepared in punishment for the devil and his angels is divided by the voice of the Lord. Thus, since there are two capacities in fire, one of burning and the other of illuminating, the fierce and punitive property of the fire may await those who deserve to burn, while its illuminating and radiant part may be reserved for the enjoyment of those who are rejoicing. (Homilies on the Psalms, On Ps. 28)
  
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397
  
That gnashing is not of bodily teeth, nor is that perpetual fire made up of physical flames, nor is the worm a bodily one. These things are spoken of, however, because, just as worms are born of massive overeating and fevers, so too, if anyone does not boil away his sins…he will be burned up in his own worms. Whence also Isaias says: “Walk in the light of your fire, and the flame which you have ignited .” (Isa. 50:11) It is a fire which gloominess of sins generates. It is a worm insofar as irrational sins of the soul stab at mind and heart and eat the guts out of your conscience. (Commentary on Luke, 7, 205)
  
St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.
 
Imitate her, O child, imitate her, I say, who saw nothing but Him alone who said: “I have come to cast fire on the earth and how I desire but that it be already kindled” (Lk. 12:49). For there is a burning of the Spirit that puts hearts on fire. For that reason the immaterial and divine fire enlightens souls and tests them as pure gold is tested in the furnace. But it burns out any evil, as if it were thorns and stubble. For “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29), “taking revenge on those who do not know him in flaming fire and who do not obey His Gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8). This fire surrounded Paul in the voice that enlightened his mind while blinding his sense of sight (Acts 9:3). For it was not in the flesh that he saw the power of that light. This fire appered to Moses in the bush (Ex. 3:2). This fire, in the form of a chariot, caught up Elijah from the earth (2Kgs. 4:11). The blessed david, while seeking out the power of this fire, said: “Search me, Lord, and try me. Burn out my reins and my heart” (Ps. 26:2).
This fire inflamed Cleopas and his companion when the Saviour spoke to them after the resurrection. From the same source also angles and the ministering spirits partake of the shining fire according to what has been said: “Who makes his angels spirits and his minsters a flaming fire” (Heb. 1:7). This fire burns up the beam in the interior eye; it renders the mind pure so that recovering its natural power of seeing, it may constantly gaze on the wonderful works of God according to him who says: “Open my eyes and I will ponder the wonders of thy Law (Ps. 119:18). This fire also drives out demons, takes away sins, and has the power of resurrection. It develops immortality, the illumination of holy souls, and the strengthening of the rational powers. Let us beg that this fire come to also to us so that, constantly walking in the light, we may never for even a moment “dash our feet against the stone” (Ps. 91:12)… (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 25.6)
 
St. Niphon of Constantia ca. 4th cent.
 
In a vision of the future Judgment, St. Niphon (4th cent.), Bishop Constantia, heard the Righteous judge declare, “Go from Me, ye who have been cursed, into the fire, the everlasting one, which hath been prepared for the devil and his angels: For I hungered and ye did not give Me anything to eat; I thirsted and ye did not give Me anything to drink; I was a stranger and ye did not bring Me in, naked and ye did not visit Me.” (Mt. 25:41-43) And, “these shall go away into everlasting punishment.” (Mt. 25:46)

St. Niphon then records, “As soon as the Judge pronounced that decison, at once, an enormous fiery river spilled over from the east and went rolling violently toward the west. It was broad like a big sea. When the sinners on the left saw it they were stunned and began to tremble, frightened in their despair. Nonetheless, the impartial Judge ordered everyone – just and unjust – to pass through the flaming river, so the fire could try them. Those at His right hand started first. They crossed and came out gleaming like solid gold. Their deeds did not burn, but instead proved to be brighter and clearer with the test; that is why they were filled with joy. After them, those at His left hand came to pass through the fire, so that their deeds might be tried. However, because they were evildoers, the flame began to envelop them and kept them in the middle of the river. Their deeds were burned like straw, whereas their bodies remained unharmed, to burn for endless ages along with the devil and the demons. No one was able to come out of that fiery river. The fire imprisoned all of them, because they deserved condemnation and punishment.” (The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy pgs. 409-410)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604
 
The fire of hell is but one: yet doth it not in one manner torment all sinners. For every one there, according to the quantity of his sin, hath the measure of his pain. For as, in this world, many live under one and the same sun, and yet do not alike feel the heat thereof: for some be burnt more, and some less: so in that one fire, divers manners of burning be found, for that which in this world diversity of bodies doth, that in the next doth diversity of sins: so that although the fire be there all alike, yet doth it not in one manner and alike burn and torment them that be damned.(Dialogues Bk. 4.43)
 
St. John Climacus ca. 579-649
 
To keep a regular watch over the heart is one thing; to guard the heart by means of the mind is another for the mind is the ruler and high priest offering spiritual sacrifices to Christ. When heaven’s holy fire lays hold of the former, it burns them because they still lack purification. This is what one of those endowed with the title of Theologian tells us. (i.e. St. Gregory of Nazianzus) But as for the latter, it enlightens them in proportion to the perfection they have achieved. It is one and the same fire that is called that which consumes (cf. Heb. 12:29) and that which illuminates (cf. John 1:9) Hence the reason why some emerge from prayer as a blazing furnace and as though having relieved of all material defilements. Others come forth as if they were resplendent with light and clothed in a garment of joy and humility. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28: On Prayer)
 
St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 6th cent.

Rev 19:11-12a Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems…

 The heavens opening signifies the appearance of the visible judge to come, just as here, when the curtains of the judges on the earth are drawn back the judgment and sentence come down upon those who are guilty. And the white horse is the future joy of the saints, upon which he is carried to judge the nations impartially, I think by His watchful, providential power throwing out flames of fire, which the righteous illuminate but do not burn, but the sinners burn and do not illumine. (Commentary on the Apocalypse) 

 St. Isaac of Syria ca. 7th cent.

As for me I say that those who are tormented in hell are tormented by the invasion of love. What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments. The suffering with which sinning against love afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment. It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is offered impartially. But by its very power it acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as happens here on earth when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful. And it gives joy to those who have been faithful.  (The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian by Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev [Cistercian Studies 175])
  
The Venerable Bede ca. 673-735
 
Jas 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
 
The tongue is a fire, because by speaking evilly it consumes the forest of virtues. Hence the wise man says about the foolish, And the opening of his mouth is a setting on fire. (Sir. 20:15) That saving fire which, devouring wood, hay, straw, (1 Cor. 3:12) enlightens the secrets of the heart of the heart is contrary, namely, to this destructive fire. Holy teachers are set on fire by it both that they themselves may burn with loving and that by preaching they may set others on fire with fiery tongues, as it were. About them it has been well written that, There appeared to them seperate tongues of fire, as it were, and settled upon each of them, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:3-4) It is rightly said of the uncontrolled tongue, however, that it is a world of wickedness, because almost all villanous deeds are either planned by it (as robberies, rapes), or carried out by it (as perjuries, flase witnesses), or defended by it (as when some sinner by making excuses denies the evil he has committed and by boasting feigns a good that he has not done.) And having been set on fire by hell, it sets on fire the wheel of our life. By hell, he says, “by the devil and his angels”, for whom hell was made (Mt. 25:41) and who always everywhere take with them the torments of flames, whether they fly in the air or wander on the earth or beneath the earth or are kept [there. They are] like a person with a fever who, even if he is placed on ivory beds or ina sunny places, still cannot avoid the heat and the chill of the illness within him. So therefore the demons, even if they are worshipped in the golden temples or move around through the air, always burn with hellish fire and, being reminded from their own punishment, they also suggest through envy to gullible men, the fuel of vices from which they too may perish. (Commentary on the Catholic Epistles)
 
Irish Liturgy ca. 7th-11th cent.
 
You call out to your servant from the flame, (Cf. Ex. 3.2-4)
You do not spurn the bush of thorns,
And though you are consuming fire, (Cf. Dt. 4:24)
You do not burn what you illumine.
Now it is time that the cloudy bee-bread
Should be consumed, all impurity boiled away,
And the waxen flesh should shine
With the glow of the Holy Spirit.
(Celtic Spirituality: Hymn at the Lighting of the Paschal Candle )
 
St. Mark of Ephesus 1392-1444
 
Since the saints do not bring with them any evil work or evil mark, this fire manifests them as brighter, as gold tried in the fire, or as the stone amianthus, which, as it is related, when placed in fire it appears as charred, but when taken out of the fire become even cleaner, as if washed with water, as were also the bodies of the Three Youths in the Babylonian furnace. Sinners, however, who bring evil with themselves, are seized as a suitable material for this fire and are immediately ignited by it, and their “work,” that is, their evil disposition or activity, is burned and utterly destroyed and they are deprived of what they brought with them, that is, deprived of their burden of evil, while they themselves are “saved” — that is, will be preserved and kept forever, so that they might not be subjected to destruction together with their evil. (Refutation of the Latin Chapters Concerning Purgatorial Fire, First Homily)
 
St. John Maximovitch 1896–1966
 
The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Dread Judgment, relates how the Ancient of Days, the judge, is on His throne, and before Him is a river of fire. Fire is a purifying element. Fire scorches sin, it burns it up, and woe also burns it up; if sin has become natural to a man, then it burns up the man himself as well.

That fire will flare up inside a man: on seeing the Cross, some will rejoice, while others will fall into despair, confusion, terror. In this way, men will immediately be separated. In the Gospel narrative, some stand to the right of the Judge, some to the left — their inner consciousness separated them. The very state of a man’s soul casts him to one side or the other, to the right or to the left.

The more consciously and persistently a man strives toward God in his life, the greater will be his joy when he hears the words: “Come unto Me, ye blessed”; and conversely, those same words will call forth the fire of horror and torment on those who did not want Him, who fled or fought or blasphemed Him during their life.

The Dread Judgment knows no witnesses or charge-sheets. Everything is recorded in men’s souls, and these records, these “books” are open. Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself, and the state of a man’s soul assigns him to the right or to the left.

Some go to joy, others to horror.

When the “books” are open, it will become clear to all that the roots of all vices are in man’s soul. Here is a drunkard, a fornicator; some may think that when the body dies the sin dies as well. No; the inclination was in the soul, and to the soul the sin was sweet.

And if [the soul] has not repented of that sin and has not become free of it, it will come to the Dread Judgment with the same desire for the sweetness of sin and will never satisfy its desire. In it will be the suffering of hatred and malice. This is the state of hell.

The “fiery Gehenna” is the inner fire; this is the flame of vice, the flame of weakness and malice; and

there will be [the] wailing and gnashing of teeth

of impotent malice.