Saturday, May 31, 2014

St. Cyril of Alexandria: "Mary, Mother of God"

"HAIL, from us, Mary, Mother of God, majestic common-treasure of the whole world, the lamp unquenchable, the crown of virginity, the staff of orthodoxy, the indissoluble temple, the dwelling of the Illimitable, Mother and Virgin, through whom He in the holy Gospels is called the ‘Blessed Who cometh in the name of the Lord.’ "

 ~St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homilies, 4.

Visitation, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Tempera on wood, c. 1491; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

St. Augustine: "The liberal arts"

"For to men who, though they are unjust and impious, imagine that they are well educated in the liberal arts, what else ought we to say than what we read in those writings which truly merit the name of liberal,— "if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" (Jn 8:36)? For it is through Him that men come to know, even in those studies which are termed liberal by those who have not been called to this true liberty, anything in them which deserves the name. For they have nothing which is consonant with liberty, except that which in them is consonant with truth."

~St. Augustine: excerpt from Letter 101, (To Memor; AD 409).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pope St. Leo I: "Christ's Ascension"

“SINCE then Christ’s Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope of the body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let us exult, dearly beloved, with worthy joy and delights in the loyal paying of thanks. For today not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise, but have also in Christ penetrated the heights of heaven.”

~St. Leo I, ‘Sermons,’ 73:4.

Ascension of Christ, by Andrea di Vanni d'Andrea.
Tempera on wood, 1355-60; The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Early Christian Fathers

Recommended reading: Early Christian Fathers, edited by Cyril Richardson

Early Christian Fathers
is an excellent,
inexpensive collection of writings from the early Church. The editor's notes and introduction are especially useful to the beginning student of patristics. In Early Christian Fathers, you will find the following works, which Christians should be familiar with and keep as a permanent resource in their home library:

• First Letter of Clement
• Letters of Ignatius of Antioch
• Letter of Polycarp
• Martyrdom of Polycarp
• The Didache
• Letter to Diognetus
• First Apology of Justin Martyr
• Selections from Ireanaeus Against Heresies
• Writings by Athenagoras
(415 pages)


St. John Damascene: "All of Creation"


In You, O Woman, Full of Grace,
the angelic choirs and the human race ─
all creation rejoices! All creation rejoices!
O Sanctified Temple, Mystical Paradise and
Glory of Virgins, He, Who is our God, from
before all ages, took flesh from You and became
a child! He made Your womb a throne! A throne
greater than the heavens! In You, O Woman,
Full of Grace, In You, O Woman, Full of Grace,
all creation rejoices, all creation rejoices! All
praise be to You! All praise be to You! All
praise be to you!

~St. John Damascene

Icon of the Mother of God of “the Three Hands.”

• Read a brief account of the background to this icon and hymn inspired by the intervention of the Blessed Virgin and the miraculous healing of St. John Damascene, here

Monday, May 26, 2014

Blessed Virgin Mary

• "May the life of Mary, who gave birth to God, be for all of you as instructive as if it were written down. Come to know yourselves in her and carry out the good works that you have neglected in the past."  (St. Athanasius, 293/297-373)

• "O sinners, be not discouraged but have recourse to Mary in all your necessities. Call her to your assistance, for you will always find her ready to help. It is God's will that she should help in every need."  (St. Basil the Great, 329-379)

• "Think often of the Blessed Virgin with love. Those who have received the grace to do so, possess a great sign for predestination." (St. Ambrose, 340-397)     

• "Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, accompanied by choirs of Angels, will come to meet you. What a day of joy that will be for you!" (St. Jerome, 340-420)

• "Through Mary, the miserable obtain Mercy, the graceless find Grace, and sinners receive pardon." (St. Augustine of Hippo, 354-430)

• "The Mother of God contained the infinite God under her Heart, the God Whom no space can contain. Through her, the Trinity is adored, demons are vanquished, Satan is cast out of Heaven, and our fallen nature is assumed into Heaven."  (St. Cyril of Alexandria, 376-444)

• "The devil is always looking for someone to devour. In the same way, Mary is always looking for someone she can help in any way." (Pope St. Leo I, reigned 440-461)

Coronation of the Virgin (Cell 9), by Fra Angelico.
Fresco, 1440-42; Convento di San Marco, Florence.

St. Jerome: On Mary

"INDEED, full of grace, for to others it is given in portions, but on Mary its fulness is showered."

~St. Jerome: Letters, 9.

The Magnificat (Le magnificat), by James Tissot (1836-1902).
Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper; Brooklyn Museum.

C.H. Dawson on the Latin Fathers

“THE Latin Fathers—Ambrose, Augustine, Leo and Gregory—were in a real sense the fathers of Western culture, since it was only in so far as the different peoples of the West were incorporated in the spiritual community of Christendom that they acquired a common culture.”

~Christopher Dawson: from Religion and the Rise of Western Culture.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

St. Ephraem: Mary and Jesus

[For the month of May, Mary's month]

“TRULY you, Lord, and your mother are the only ones who are beautiful, completely so in every respect; for, Lord, there is no spot in you, nor any spot at all in your mother.”

~St. Ephraem the Syrian: Nibisene Hymns, 27 (BK 122).

Bardi Altarpiece (detail), by Sandro Botticelli.
Tempera on panel, 1484; Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Friday, May 23, 2014

St. Jerome: "From a virgin wedlock a virgin son was born"

“WE believe that God was born of the Virgin, because we read it. That Mary was married after she brought forth, we do not believe, because we do not read it. Nor do we say this to condemn marriage…. For virginity itself is the fruit of marriage…. You say that Mary did not continue a virgin: I claim still more, that Joseph himself on account of Mary was a virgin, so that from a virgin wedlock a virgin son was born.”

~St. Jerome (c. 340-420): The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary, Chap. 21.

Madonna of the Magnificat (Madonna del Magnificat), by Sandro Botticelli.
Tempera on panel, 1480-81; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

St. Cyril of Alexandria: "The virgin mother"

“CHRIST, as I have said, was also God in his humanity, permitting human nature to use its laws while nonetheless conserving also the purity of divinity. For in this way and in no other is God to be understood both what was born by nature and those things which the virgin mother produced not only of flesh and blood in the same way that other mothers do, but the flesh and blood of the Lord and of God imbued with our likeness.”

~St. Cyril of Alexandria: Pascal Homilies, 17: 2.

Enthroned Virgin and Child.
Ivory carving with paint, ca. 1275–1300;
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

St. Hilary of Poitiers: "The nature of this subject exhausts the meaning of words"

“I MUST undertake something that cannot be limited and venture upon something that cannot be comprehended, so that I may speak about God who cannot be accurately defined. He fixed the names of the nature—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Whatever is sought over and above this transcends the meaning of words, the limits of perception, and the concepts of understanding. It may not be expressed, attained, or grasped. The nature of this subject exhausts the meaning of words, an impenetrable light darkens the vision of the mind, and whatever is without limits is beyond the capacity of our power of reasoning.”

~St. Hilary of Poitiers: On the Trinity, Bk. 2, Chap. 5.
(Note: The quote above is a translation by Fr. John Willis, S.J., which is other than the translation linked to at and


St. Jerome: "A custom of the Churches"

“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.”

~St. Jerome: The Dialogue Against the Luciferians, Chap. 8.

St. Jerome as a Scholar, by El Greco.
Oil on canvas, 1600-14; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

St. Augustine: "The authority of the Catholic Church"

“BUT SHOULD you meet with a person not yet believing the Gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.”

~St. Augustine: Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, Ch. 5.

St. Augustine: "Believe that thou mayest understand"

“UNDERSTANDING is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”

~St. Augustine: In Joan. Evang., 39, 6.

Origen: Understanding John's Gospel

“NO ONE may understand the meaning of the Gospel of St. John, if he has not rested on the breast of Jesus and received Mary from Jesus, to be his mother also.”

~Origen of Alexandria (AD 185-232): In Job, 1, 6.

A little humor from Tertullian

"IF famine or pestilence take their marches through the country, the word is, "Away with these Christians to the lion!" Bless me! what, so many people to one lion!"

~Apology, 40:2.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

St. Ambrose: "See in her the pattern of your life"

“LET Mary’s life be for you like the portrayal of virginity, for from her, as though from a mirror, is reflected the beauty of chastity and the ideal of virtue. See in her the pattern of your life, for in her, as though in a model, manifest teachings of goodness show what you should correct, what you should copy and what preserve…. She is the image of virginity. For such was Mary that her life alone suffices for the instruction of all.”

~St. Ambrose: De Virginibus, 2, 6.

by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1893.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "The mother of us all"

“AND if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all.”

~St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313-386): Catecheses, No. 17:14.

St. Prosper of Aquitaine: "The Physician knows better"

“HE who asks of God in faith things needful for this life is sometimes mercifully heard and sometimes mercifully not heard. For the Physician knows better than the patient what will avail for the sick man.”

~St. Prosper of Aquitaine (c.390 – c.455): Sententiae ex Augustino delibatae, 212.

St. Gregory Nazianzen: Last Judgment

“BELIEVE…that He is to return, glorious and illustrious, to exercise judgment on the living and the dead, not indeed in His former fleshly form, nor yet without a body more august and more divine such as He alone knew.”

~St. Gregory Nazianzen (c. 325 – 389): Oratio, 45.

See also:
Saint Gregory Nazianzus, by Benedict XVI
Links to English translations of works by Gregory Nazianzen

The Last Judgment, by Peter Cornelius.
Fresco, 1836-39; Ludwigskirche, Munich.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

St. Gregory I: Salvator mundi, Domine

THEE, Savior of the world, we pray
Who hast preserved us through the day,
This night protect us by thy pow’r,
And shield and save us hour by hour.

Be with us now, in mercy nigh,
And spare thy servants when we cry;
Our sins blot out, our prayers receive,
Our darkness lighten and forgive.

O let not sleep o’ercome the soul,
Nor Satan with his spirits foul;
Our flesh keep chaste, that it may be
An holy temple unto thee.

To the, who dost our souls renew,
With heart-felt vows we humbly sue,
That pure in heart, and free from stain,
We from our beds may rise again.

(From The Hymner: Containing Translations of the Hymns from the Sarum Breviary)

Friday, May 2, 2014

St. Athanasius: The Incarnate Word

"AND this above all shows the foolishness of those who say that the Word was changed into bones and flesh. For if this had been so, there were no need of a tomb. For the Body would have gone by itself to preach to the spirits in Hades. But as it was, He Himself went to preach, while the Body Joseph wrapped in a linen cloth, and laid it away at Golgotha. (Mk 15:46) And so it is shown to all that the Body was not the Word, but Body of the Word. And it was this that Thomas handled when it had risen from the dead, and saw in it the print of the nails, which the Word Himself had undergone, seeing them fixed in His own Body, and though able to prevent it, did not do so. On the contrary, the incorporeal Word made His own the properties of the Body, as being His own Body. Why, when the Body was struck by the attendant, as suffering Himself He asked, 'Why do you smite Me (Jn 18:23)?' And being by nature intangible, the Word yet said, 'I gave My back to the stripes, and My cheeks to blows, and hid not My face from shame and spitting (Is 50:6).' For what the human Body of the Word suffered, this the Word, dwelling in the body, ascribed to Himself, in order that we might be enabled to be partakers of the Godhead of the Word.  And verily it is strange that He it was Who suffered and yet suffered not. Suffered, because His own Body suffered, and He was in it, which thus suffered; suffered not, because the Word, being by Nature God, is impassible. And while He, the incorporeal, was in the passible Body, the Body had in it the impassible Word, which was destroying the infirmities inherent in the Body. But this He did, and so it was, in order that Himself taking what was ours and offering it as a sacrifice, He might do away with it, and conversely might invest us with what was His, and cause the Apostle to say: 'This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality (1 Cor 15:53).'"

~St. Athanasius: Letter to Epictetus, Ch. 6.

Ecce Homo, by Antonio Ciseri. Oil on canvas, 1891;
Galleria dell'Arte Moderna, Palazzo Pitti, Florence.

May 2: Memorial of St. Athanasius

St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church:

"St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria and a great defender of the orthodox faith, throughout his life opposed the Arian heresy. By denying the Godhead of the Word the Arians turned Christ into a mere man, only higher in grace than others in the eyes of God. St. Athanasius took part in the Council of Nicea in 325 and until the end remained a champion of the faith as it was defined by the Council. In him the Church venerates one of her great Doctors. He was subjected to persecutions for upholding the true teaching concerning the person of Christ and was sent into exile from his see no less than five times. He died at Alexandria in 373 after an episcopate of forty-six years." (from

Select Resources:
St. Athanasius, Catholic Encyclopedia

Saint Athanasius: The Father of Orthodoxy, by F.A. Forbes; at Project Gutenberg

Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Archibald Robinson
Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, by Benedict XVI

St. Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church, by Rev. Alban Butler

"When I praise Athanasius, virtue itself is my theme: for I name every virtue as often as I mention him who was possessed of all virtues. He was the true pillar of the church. His life and conduct were the rule of bishops, and his doctrine the rule of the orthodox faith." ~St. Gregory Nazianzen

17th century Icon of St. Athanasius of Alexandria;
Varna Archaeological Museum, Varna, Bulgaria.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

St. Athanasius: "Thus believes the Catholic Church"

“WITHOUT prefixing Consulate, month, and day, the Fathers wrote concerning Easter, 'It seemed good as follows,’ for it did then seem good that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, ‘It seemed good,’ but, ‘Thus believes the Catholic Church’; and thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to show that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolic; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles.”

~St. Athanasius: Letter on the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia.
(Bishop of Alexandria, born c. 296; died 2 May, 373.)

St. Bernard: On St. Joseph

“THERE is no doubt then that this Joseph, to whom the mother of the Savior was espoused, was a man good and preeminently faithful. A prudent and faithful servant he was, I say, whom the Lord placed beside Mary to be her protector, the nourisher of His human body, and the single and most trusty assistant on earth in His design.”

~St. Bernard: Sermon 2 in Vigil. Nativ. Domini, 16.

Flight into Egypt, by Fra Angelico.
Tempera on wood, 1451-52; Museo di San Marco, Florence.

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