Translation – Homily 1 of St Severus of Antioch

Of St Severus the Archbishop of Antioch and Patriarch: About himself, from the beginning, how he was promoted and came to the Pontificate and the Apostolic See of the Church of the Antiochians. And that we must confess Christ of two natures, one Lord, one Son, and not two natures after the ineffable union. And against the atheistic opinion of Eutyches. And it was pronounced in the martyrium of the holy martyr Romanos.

When the patriarch Jacob, remarkable for his virtue, had left for the country of Mesopotamia and having walked part of the way, he was preparing himself for sleep: it was evening and above all the fatigue of the march of the path invited him to do so. A ladder appeared to him clearly and distinctly which extended up to the sky: on the one hand, it was leaning on the ground, on the other hand, it reached to the top and rose above the sky. And rested on it, as the Scripture says. ….

But Blessed Jacob, after having been judged worthy of this vision and having benefited from this great grace, understood by this revelation the mystery full of wonders which had been figured from the beginning. He took a stone, placed it as a memorial and in honour – for it was holy – and for the glory of God who had explained the vision to him. He did not stop there, but he sprinkled oil on the stone, and then spoke thus: This is the house of God and this is the door of heaven.

With such words, it is only proper if he cries out: When will the sun of righteousness shine upon the inhabitants of the earth, the Word of God the Father, the chosen and precious cornerstone, according to the word of Isaiah, the one who has been anointed with the oil of gladness in preference to those around him, and who humbled himself and became incarnate for us. He will be a ladder for us, and he will raise us up to heaven, we who are lying on the earth through the sin of transgression of Adam. It will become for us the door to heaven:

He will reveal to us the glory of his Father and will reveal himself to us with the Holy Spirit and will teach us the one Lordship and the one Divinity in the Holy Trinity, leaning on the ladder, who is our Saviour Jesus Christ, the one through who those of heaven are gathered with those who are on earth.

This is why he himself in the Gospels said to Nathanael: Verily, verily, I say to you; you will see the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. And again: I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved and he will go in and out and find pasture.

And now I, a weak sinner, do not know the purpose that has been formed over me by the foreknowledge and wisdom of God beyond all thought, so that I am placed beyond my merits on this sacred pulpit. And behold, now I gaze upon this great church full of people, bubbling in the Spirit and shining on all sides with the rays of the light of the Orthodox faith, it is time for me to remind you of the words of Patriarch Jacob, and to say: This is the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

This is the spiritual flock that Peter, the greatest of the apostles, grazed by feeding them the holy dogmas of religion. This is the stone on which Christ the God of all the universe has established the basis of the Church which is in all places.

This is the people on whom the holy name of Christ was written, and whom before all others were called Christians: a new name which will be blessed on earth, and which Isaiah the prophet indicated in advance. But this city, friend of Christ, which bears all kinds of spiritual graces, was troubled by the storm of impiety, which was first raised by Diodorus, and by Theodorus, the leaders of the impure heresy produced by the spirits of evil; which was aroused even more by their disciple of the same type, Nestorius, when he was blinded like them by the glare of the devil’s madness.

After him, the synod which met in Chalcedon excited the storm even higher, like the sea when it is agitated by a great storm, when it becomes wilder and when it lifts its waves very high.

This synod, in fact, (…), if it provided a remedy for the evil heresy of Eutyches in a certain way, also introduced into the Church the madness of Nestorius which forfeits the soul; and by undertaking to cure evil with evil, as the saying goes, he became the cause of a great sickness, and not of salvation, for the body of Christ which is the Church.

Indeed the only begotten Son, the Word of God, the one who became incarnate and became man for us, without change or transformation, the synod divided him into two natures after the ineffable and incomprehensible union, mistakenly describing him as if he was a man who suffered death and the cross, and not the Lord of glory whom they crucified, after having suffered for us in the flesh truly, though God incomprehensible and impassive in his nature. For if the immortal Word of God the Father had not made himself one through hypostasis with the mortal, I mean the body belonging to the same essence as us, in which there is an intelligent soul, there was no there was no way that death could have touched him entirely.

But having become flesh and man, and having continued to be God unchanged, he, this same Word of God, tasted death for us, after he became flesh for us. He continued to be immortal, because he is immortal according to his nature. Therefore, the one who first confesses with an upright heart, a firm mind and an unchanging faith, that the Word of God was made flesh in a flesh belonging to the same essence as us, as I spoke more aloft, will still confess that the same person is truly God and man. He will attribute to the same individual the sufferings and wonders that are befitting to the divinity and humanity, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection, and immortality. Death will not change the conditions of immortality at all, since the one who is immortal by his nature was made what was according to the mortal, that is, the flesh in which he suffered and died for us, and it became the same being as him.

Let us flee now, O people who are friends of Christ, from the folly of the new Jews, that is to say, from those who met at the synod of Chalcedon, who divided this indivisible one into two natures. Following after the Tome of Leo the blasphemer, asking which nature was nailed to the wood of the cross, so that attributing passibility to the nature of humanity alone, they do not attribute it to the Lord of glory, our Saviour, the Word of the Father, and in this way they henceforth divide the indivisible into two natures: for this word two dissolves the unity; and the whole theme of the Economy of our salvation completely destroys it. Yes, ideas of ungodliness like this, let us flee from them.

Let us confess one Lord of glory, that is, Emmanuel, one person, one hypostasis, one incarnate nature of God the Word, according to the formula transmitted to us by our holy inspired Fathers; and not support in any way the praying with those who dare to separate the flesh of our Saviour from the Divinity, with two natures after the ineffable and incomprehensible union, thinking thus to honour the divinity.

As the rebellious Eutyches and other heretics who wandered with him in the same madness said, saying that it is not right for us to lower the divinity to a generation according to the flesh, they did not recognize, fools, that his birth, being of a Virgin, did not come from a male sperm, but from the Holy Spirit.

And finding pretext in sins, insinuating that it would be a shameful thing if God endured the generation full of impurity of our poor nature, they said that it was in phantasm that he appeared; they did not know, these unfortunate people, that where God is with impeccability, there is all purity and all holiness, for the stain of impurity is nothing other than the stain coming from sin.

Further, going astray in such vain thoughts, they dared to say that God the Word was not made flesh in truth; but they said that he took the appearance of a man, that he left his home to enter this world, in a sort of vision which one sees in the imagination of sleep; so that at last they made the Economy of our salvation a kind of baseless dream.

This is truly a great and grave sin; and those who entertain such blasphemies are no different from the Jews who crucified the Lord. For, if it is as they say, then really our preaching is in vain, vain is our faith, and we are like the hungry persons who eat in a dream, and who, when they get up, see that their dream is vanity; or like one who thirsts and drinks in a dream, and who always rises thirsty, while his soul hoped for vanity.

The prophet Isaiah beautifully foretold in advance the error of those who were thus mistaken with such words. For if the Word of the Father did not have the same essence in common with us, taking the seed of Abraham and truly becoming man, how then will we be called children of God? Because if Emmanuel had not taken our flesh, we would not have received the spirit of sonship. If he had not humbled himself of his own will, making himself poor for us, rich as he was, according to the testimony of the Apostle, we would not have received, all of us, of his fullness, life and grace, as the holy Evangelist, John the Theologian has said.

But avoiding ourselves such atheism-filled expressions of both parties, I mean those Nestorians who are the Diphysites, and the Euthychians, let us confess that Emmanuel is one, that he is God the Word of the Father, who became man through his love for men. That it is not at all possible to conceive the two natures after the indissoluble union, but “one incarnate nature of God the Word”, that is to say who became man by being God also. Because, on the one hand, he took flesh from the Virgin Mary belonging to the same essence as us, we confess this without any hesitation. And, on the other hand, since the flesh which he took was one with the Word of the Father, we say that he is one, the Son of God, and that there is only one incarnate nature of God the Word.

And this expression, that He became flesh, manifestly shows the fact that it is not simply by conjunction that the divinity was united with the flesh. But that it is according to the hypostasis that he made himself one with it, so that those who dare to separate the Word of God from the flesh into two natures after the union, no longer believe in a Trinity, but it is a Tetrad that they confess.

But we, my brethren, remain standing, established on the inflexible faith of the holy Apostles, being made safe by it on all sides; without being carried away by the deceptive words of the heretics, but believing and knowing in truth that Christ, the Son of the living God suffered for us in the flesh. The words of the great Apostle Peter, let us remember them as an inheritance from our fathers, for, truly, they close the way of all ungodliness. One in fact is God the Christ, born of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. He is the living Word and the wisdom of the Father, he is one and in no way divided into two natures.

It is for this very reason that Blessed Peter considered it necessary to preach to all people the orthodox dogma of religion by saying that Christ suffered for us in the flesh, thus designating one person and one hypostasis of God the Incarnate Word.

Because, if it is divided into two natures, then it is superfluous, even more, it is a great folly to say: “He who could suffer suffered for us in the flesh.” But as he is impassible God by his nature, he has become a man without change who can suffer for us, so that Peter proclaimed to us: Christ suffered for us in the flesh. If we have therefore been worthy of this great love for men on the part of Our Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour, let us cleanse ourselves every day from the stain of our sins and mortify the members who are on earth, fornication, impurity, passion, evil lust which is the service of idols, according to the teaching of the apostle. In this way we will prepare ourselves to speak the holy language of God.

For what is the advantage to one who speaks with the sublime dogmas of religion, and who does not first purify his language of lies and detraction, or of hypocrisy and cunning? As a wise man said, The blessing is not beautiful in the mouth of the sinner.

Blessed James also said: As the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works itself is dead. It is a similar thing which is stated thus: “Just as a dead man, even if he still has his head on him, cannot perform any act, nor speak, nor walk, so if a life of righteousness is not joined to faith, the latter is dead and of no effect “.

For if the words of Our Lord ignite like fire, as God said through Jeremiah: My words are like blazing fire, then he who must speak with the dogmas and the sentences of the Scriptures also needs a tongue fiery as fire. It is for this very reason that the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles under the appearance of tongues which scattered like fire.

It is again a similar language used by the holy martyr Saint Romanos, whose name we are celebrating today, in this defense which has become famous which he pronounced before the judge. The latter having said to him: “It is right to obey the Sovereign”, the hero replied: “It is right to obey God, sovereign of the universe, rather than the Sovereign, and he kept repeating such words, until they took his head off.

After having kindled their fire with a large quantity of wood, the executioners thought they were burning the holy body, but the Lord of the universe glorified his martyr, for instantly he made a great rain fall, extinguished the fire and kept the body of his servant without combustion.

And we too, my brethren, give glory to Him who was made flesh for us, by mortifying the thoughts of the flesh which are enemies of the spirit; let us give glory to the Word of the Father by restraining the indomitable impulse of insane passions by continence.

Let us give glory to the Merciful by also becoming merciful to those who are of the same nature as us. Let us give glory to the friend of men, by not being bound in our heart to him who has become our enemy. Let us give glory to Him who suffered for us, by making ourselves ready to suffer for his name.

Let us give glory to the One who dwells in heaven and who came to earth for us, who ascended again to heaven, who fills all places and rules them all, forsaking the cares of the earth, taking care of things. from heaven, seeking the things of heaven, where dwelleth Christ seated at the right hand of the Father. There is our true homeland, from which we fell, which was given back to us by grace by the love of the humanity of Our Lord, who became man for us, until we were restored to our first dignity. Certainly all the works of this life do not differ in any way from the dreams or the shadows which deceive those who are enjoying themselves as well as those who are at the theatre.

So let us move beyond all of this and pursue things from heaven with eagerness, like those running in the stadium, before all of this passes beyond us, for the figure of this world will pass, according to Paul’s word.

Do not think that we have done much if we despise the things that pass; but let us hasten to enter the eternal kingdom of heaven! That it might be that we all receive it!

By the grace and love of humanity of Our Lord and our God, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory with his Father full of goodness, with the Holy Spirit, vivifying and consubstantial, now and at all times for all ages of ages! Amen!

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