Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Nicholas Cabasilas

Yesterday (June 20) was the feast of Nicholas Cabasilas for the Greek Orthodox. He is not, as far as I am aware, officially on any Catholic calendars, although it is not difficult to find Melkite Catholics who refer to him as St. Nicholas Cabasilas. Regardless, he is one of the truly great Byzantine theologians. He lived in the fourteenth century; we don't know exactly when he was born or died, but common dates given are 1321-1391. His uncle Nilus Cabasilas was the Archbishop of Thessalonica; he himself became an advisor to John Cantacuzenos. We do not know whether he was ever ordained as a priest, although it seems likely given his intimate familiarity with liturgical matters, but he did become a monk. Later hagiography often claims he succeeded his uncle as Archbishop of Thessalonica, but these claims are late, and it is often unclear how the dates would work out, so these claims may well be the result of an accidental confusion between Nicholas and his uncle.

From The Life in Christ, which is concerned with the sacraments (particularly baptism, chrismation, and eucharist):

Those who come over to Him He welcomes with the gifts which follow from His death and burial. He does not merely bestow a crown or give them some share in His glory, He gives them Himself, the Victor who is crowned with glory. When we come up from the water we bear the Saviour upon our souls, on our heads, on our eyes, in our very inward parts, on all our members--Him who is pure from sin, free from all corruption, just as He was when He rose again and appeared to His disciples, as He was taken up, as He will come again to demand the return of His treasure.

Thus we have been born; we have been stamped with Christ as though with some figure and shape.
[Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, DeCatanzaro, tr. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (Crestwood, NY: 1974) p. 62.]

From A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, which goes step by step through the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, one of the major liturgies of the Church:

The central act in the celebration of the holy mysteries is the transformation of the elements into the Divine Body and Blood; its aim is the sanctification of the faithful, who through these mysteries receive the remission of their sins and the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. As a preparation for, and contribution to, this act and this purpose, we have prayer, psalms, and readings from Holy Scripture; in short, all the sacred acts and forms which are said and done before and after the consecration of the elements.
[Nicholas Cabasilas, A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, Hussey & McNulty, trs., St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (Crestword, NY: 1960) p. 25.]

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