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text 2019-01-11 13:51
I Am The Vine by St. Cyril of Alexandria


St. Cyril expounds of the passage of Scripture John 15:5 speaking of the union of the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit. A rich and powerful exposition from the Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in AD 400. He is known for the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus where he defended the "inseparable unity" of the Divine and human nature of Christ. Read now his exposition:


The Lord calls himself the vine and those united to him branches (John 15:5) in order to teach us how much we shall benefit from our union with him, and how important it is for us to remain in his love. By receiving the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of union between us and Christ our Savior, those who are joined to him, as branches are to a vine, share in his own nature.


On the part of those who come to the vine, their union with him depends upon a deliberate act of the will; on his part, the union is effected by grace. Because we had good will, we made the act of faith that brought us to Christ, and received from him the dignity of adoptive sonship that made us his own kinsmen, according to the words of Saint Paul: He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.


The prophet Isaiah calls Christ the foundation, because it is upon him that we as living and spiritual stones are built into a holy priesthood to be a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. Upon no other foundation than Christ can this temple be built. Here Christ is teaching the same truth by calling himself the vine, since the vine is the parent of its branches, and provides their nourishment.


From Christ and in Christ, we have been reborn through the Spirit in order to bear the fruit of life; not the fruit of our old, sinful life but the fruit of a new life founded upon our faith in him and our love for him. Like branches growing from a vine, we now draw our life from Christ, and we cling to his holy commandment in order to preserve this life. Eager to safeguard the blessing of our noble birth, we are careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, and who makes us aware of God’s presence in us.


Let the wisdom of John teach us how we live in Christ and Christ lives in us: The proof that we are living in him and he is living in us is that he has given us a share in his Spirit. Just as the trunk of the vine gives its own natural properties to each of its branches, so, by bestowing on them the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, gives Christians a certain kinship with himself and with God the Father because they have been united to him by faith and determination to do his will in all things. He helps them to grow in love and reverence for God, and teaches them to discern right from wrong and to act with integrity.

Source: greggordon.home.blog/2019/01/11/i-am-the-vine-by-st-cyril-of-alexandria
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review 2018-09-14 23:56
Clunker: "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" by Philip Pullman
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ - Philip Pullman

A few pointers:

Some of the examples are typical: first it's Mary as having the child by a village lad (*fnarr fnarr*), so none of that god stuff, so Jesus is not the son of god so Redemption and Salvation have no meaning, he's just a bloke. ...hmmm do I see the very basis of Christianity being attacked here? Second, he presents a false dichotomy, between the simple moralist of Galilee - nothing divine, nothing special, there are plenty of moralists and always will be; and the Man Who Wants a Mighty Church to rule everything. This of course is a wild perversion of christian doctrine, the church is a means, not an end, only in Pullman's caricatures is the Magisterium a ruthless theocracy with power as its sole objective. 



If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2016-10-16 00:00
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I'm probably one of the few non-Mormons who have read this book cover to cover. From this book alone I can understand why Mormons tend not to like Donald Trump as much as I tend to not like him. There's a niceness that's entwined within this book and faith means charity and considerations for 'others' is a major theme within this book, but dividing the 'us' into the 'them' is antithetical to the narrative told within this book.

This book provides an interesting peek into the most American of all religions. I find most of the Old Testament boring beyond tedium, and most of the New Testament was written by what most people today would consider as a psychopathic killer prone to visions and imaginary voices (Saul of Tarsus is not a role model for me), but the Book of Mormon gives enough of a story with a mixture of New Testament philosophy mostly of Jesus' sayings and worded such that the positive comes through.

This book alone does not tell me how the Nephites (sons of Lehi) ended up in the New World. I like to think that they entered a portal into a parallel dimension or at least a multi-world universe through an eternal recurrence gateway, because it would be hard for me to understand the story otherwise. Twice, once in 2600 b.c. and another in 600 b.c. migrations from people in the middle east made it to the land of bountiful.

The value of the book is clearly how Americans thought about the world in 1830 and gives hints into the unique qualities of the zeitgeist of the time.
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text 2015-09-07 00:36
Mount TBR 2015 - Book 43
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Canongate Myths) - Philip Pullman

I loved His Dark Materials, so I'm very intrigued to read Pullman's take on the Gospels, especially considering his well-documented aethist views. 

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review 2014-12-10 22:31
Review of On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ
On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings - Maximus the Confessor,Robert Louis Wilken,Paul M. Blowers

St. Maximus the Confessor, The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, translated by Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003). Pp. 188. Paperback $16.00.


On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ has become one of my top favorite books because St. Maximus has a holistic view of salvation. In the American context – the one in which I live – the predominate view of salvation is that one “accepts” Jesus as Lord and is, consequently, saved. This view is based on an idea of original sin that declares us guilty in an imaginary courtroom, but if we submit ourselves to Christ, his sacrificial crucifixion pays our debts and we are able to “go to heaven.” This entire view, however, is foreign to ancient eastern Christianity and the Orthodox Church. St. Maximus’s view is that salvation is about union with God; one which is so intimate that we aren’t just “saved,” but we actually participate in the life of God. I believe this is a much-needed corrective to the Christian American’s view of salvation.


St. Maximus is, by no means, original. He stands on the shoulders of esteemed theologians who came before him, especially St. Gregory of Nazianzus. What he does do, is articulate theology in a very precise way, which includes using Greek philosophical argumentation; however, even this is borrowed from earlier Christian theologians – such as Origen – rather than directly from Greek philosophers. So, St. Maximus isn’t even innovative in this way, but rather he clarifies misinterpretations.


St. Maximus argues that ideally we are born, have movement towards God through our lifetime, and then come to find rest in God (salvation, deification, theosis). However, instead of moving towards God (contemplating God), humanity turned to move away from God (contemplating material things, or the world) instead. At this point, St. Maximus has a very interesting understanding of death, pain, and suffering. He says God introduced them into the world to show us that our contemplation of material things was flawed and not life-giving. Our pain, suffering, and eventual death are to get our attention so that we would turn again to God, the only one who gives life.


However, our fall introduces a vicious cycle into human existence. Our contemplation of material things is a search for sensual pleasure (as opposed to spiritual pleasure), which includes sexual gratification. Of course, this sort of pleasure brings about a birth that can only end in death. It seems that St. Maximus envisions that had humanity not fallen in the garden, our birth would not come about through sexual pleasure; however, he doesn’t elaborate on what a “spiritual” birth would have looked like in a pre-fallen world. Thus, pleasure, birth, and death become an unending cycle.


The solution and the plan for salvation is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. St. Maximus very clearly articulates that when Jesus became man, humanity was infused with divinity. This action recreates, or renews, our human nature. Because Christ was not born though sensual passion, he breaks the cycle of pleasure, birth, and death. Yet, because he does die, and this death is unjust, his death has the affect of triumphing over death. We, as Christians, are now given the opportunity to be reborn (baptism), and because this birth is also not the result of sensual pleasure, but rather spiritual contemplation, it unites us to Christ, and allows us to participate in the life of God. This is our second birth.


This union with God is salvation. Christ gives us the opportunity to turn our attention away from the contemplation of material things, and again towards the contemplation of God. In short, Christ shows us how to move towards God so that we can experience our third birth: resurrection. Thus, St. Maximus is able to say, “hence the whole man, as the object of divine action, is divinized by being made God by the grace of God who became man.” In short, being saved is much more than submitting to a master (Lord); rather it’s about synergistic union with God.


This book is one of the more, if not most, difficult books of the Popular Patristic series. However, it does include an excellent introduction that helps one pull St. Maximus’s theology together. Though it can be difficult working your way through this volume, I believe the payoff is priceless. This is well worth the read.

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