Thread: Daily Dose of Orthodoxy
September 9th 2004, 11:53 AM #16
Re: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Part 2
A psychologist friend, Pamela Olsen, notes a contrast between the "western" approach, on the one hand, and the Orthodox, on the other: "The school of psychology that I was trained in was phenomenology -- description rather than explanation and causation. Orthodox theology seeks to describe experience, rather than explain or prove, whereas western religion often seeks to prove with great unlikely leaps of 'logic' that never quite get it. (It's interesting that western converts to Orthodoxy sometimes bring with them the need to prove everything.) I can't remember if our pastor actually said this, or I gleaned it from things he : 'We will tell you our story. You can take it or leave it. We're not into trying to prove it. It is simply our story.' The theological works tend to try and 'unpack' that story and discover/describe its many layers of meanings. So I'm not sure that the intellectual could be separated from the spiritual -- words are so confining."
What drew her from a Presbyterian background to Orthodoxy, she explained, was a "deep-down joy I experience coming into the church, smelling the incense, seeing the beauty, being surrounded by the icons, seeing familiar faces, being greeted with a smile or a hug by people who are also trying to live in the Kingdom of God. I don't know what the true church is, but I know that God dwells here, and not only God, but a whole community of believers and saints, some of whom are there in the icons . . . a community that has endured and will endure."
The Orthodox Church in brief...
The Orthodox Church, with more than 250 million active members throughout the world, is a fellowship of independent (autocephalous) churches each governed by its own senior bishop (called Patriarch or Metropolitan) and linked to each other by a common faith, similar principles, and a common liturgical tradition. Only the languages used in worship and minor aspects of tradition differ from country to country. The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the largest Orthodox church today.
In its doctrinal statements and liturgical texts, the Orthodox Church recognizes the authority of the seven ecumenical councils at which East and West were represented together. These were the Councils of Nicea I (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680), and Nicea II (787).
The Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium defined the basic Christian doctrines on the Trinity, on the unique Person and the two natures of Christ, expressing fully the authenticity and fullness of his divinity and his humanity. These doctrines are expressed in all Orthodox statements of faith and in liturgical hymns. In light of this traditional doctrine on the Person of Christ, the Virgin Mary is venerated as Mother of God and her intercession invoked because she was closer to the Savior than anyone else and is, therefore, the representative of fallen humanity and the most prominent and holiest member of the church.
There is no Orthodox equivalent to the office of Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. A "primacy of honor" belongs to the Patriarch of Constantinople (modern Istanbul), the city that was the seat of the Byzantine Empire from 320 to 1453 AD. The power exercised by the Ecumenical Patriarch has never been comparable to that exercised in the West by the Bishop of Rome. He does not possess administrative powers beyond his own Patriarchate, nor does he claim infallibility. The other churches recognize his role in convening pan-Orthodox consultations and councils.
All national jurisdictions have made their way to America, a process begun in 1794 by Russian monastic missionaries to Alaska and California. In addition, there is the Orthodox Church of America, which grew out of the Russian Orthodox Church but was granted independence by its mother church. Estimates of the number of Orthodox Christians in the US range from four to five million.
The Orthodox Church, by Timothy Ware (now Bishop Kallistos) -- the best overall introduction to Orthodoxy. The author is a lecturer at Oxford and a monk of St. John's Monastery on Patmos. (Penguin, third revised edition) By the same author: The Orthodox Way -- theological basics of Orthodoxy, with many quotations from ancient and modern sources. (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, second revised edition.)
The Year of Grace of the Lord, by Father Lev Gillett (writing anonymously as "A Monk of the Eastern Church") -- meditations on the Gospel arranged to follow the calendar. (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.)
The Roots of Christian Mysticism by Olivier Cl駑ent -- a systematic introduction to the radical writings of the Church Fathers. Cl駑ent reminds his readers that Christianity was originally a mystical religion; to the extent that churches have lost their mystical center,they become bone dry and lifeless. (New City Books)
For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann -- a presentation of the Orthodox understanding of sacraments and the sacramentality of all creation. (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press)
Praying with Icons by Jim Forest -- a well-illustrated introduction to icons with a focus being their integration into prayer life. (Orbis Books)
The Illuminating Icon by Anthony Ugolnik -- an introduction to Orthodoxywritten mainly for American Protestant readers. (Eerdmans)
Becoming Orthodox by Peter Gillquist -- a story of conversion that moves from the Campus Crusade to the Orthodox Church as a community of evangelical Christians try to find out what happened to Christianity between the age of the Apostles and the Reformation. (Conciliar Press.)
Facing East by Frederica Mathewes-Green -- a personal, vivid, often funny introduction to Orthodoxy in the form of a journal by a convert whose priest-husband serves a mission parish in Baltimore. (Harper San Francisco)
What drew her from a Presbyterian background to Orthodoxy, she explained, was a "deep-down joy I experience coming into the church, smelling the incense, seeing the beauty, being surrounded by the icons, seeing familiar faces, being greeted with a smile or a hug by people who are also trying to live in the Kingdom of God. I don't know what the true church is, but I know that God dwells here, and not only God, but a whole community of believers and saints, some of whom are there in the icons . . . a community that has endured and will endure.""Only friendliness produces friendship. And we must look far deeper into the soul of man for the thing that produces friendliness." G. K. Chesterton
September 14th 2004, 04:36 PM #17
From the Second Theological Oration by St. Gregory the Theologian
Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him. Yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him. Yesterday I was buried with Him; today I am raised up with Him. Let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us . . . ourselves, the possession most precious to God and most proper. Let us become like Christ, since He became like us. Let us become divine for His sake, since for us He became man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better. He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich. He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom. He came down that we might be lifted up. He was tempted that through Him we might conquer. He was dishonored that He might glorify us. He died that He might save us. He ascended that He might draw us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin, to Himself. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself as a ransom and reconciliation for us. We needed an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him that we might be cleansed. We rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him. We were glorified with Him because we rose again with Him. A few drops of His Blood recreate the whole universe!
What reason can be given why the Blood of the Only-begotten should be pleasing to the Father? For He did not accept even Isaac when he was offered by his father, be He gave a substitute for the sacrifice, a lamb to take the place of the rational victim. Is it not clear that the Father accepts the sacrifice, not because He demanded or needed it, but because this was part of the divine economy, since man had to be sanctified by the humanity of God; so that He might rescue us by overcoming the tyrant by force, and bring us back to Himself through the mediation of the Son, Who carried out this divine plan to the honor of the Father, to Whom He clearly delivers up all things."Only friendliness produces friendship. And we must look far deeper into the soul of man for the thing that produces friendliness." G. K. Chesterton
September 21st 2004, 12:53 AM #18
Gregory Nazianzen's Oratio, XXIX, 19, 20
He was born, but he was already begotten; he issued from a woman, but she was a virgin . . . . He was wrapped in swaddling bands, but he removed the swaddling clothes of the grave when he rose again. He was laid in a manger, but he was glorified by angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshiped by the Magi. He had no form nor comeliness in the eyes of the Jews, but to David he was fairer than the children of men. And on the mountain he was bright as lightening, and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mysteries of the future. . . .
He was baptized as a man, but he remitted sins as God. He was tempted as man, but he conquered as God. He hungered, but he fed thousands. He thirsted, but he cried:"If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." He was weary, but he is the peace of them that are sorrowful and heavy-laden. . . .He prays, but he hears prayer. He weeps, but he puts an end to tears. He asks where Lazarus was laid, for he was a man; and he raises Lazarus, for he is God. . . . As a sheep he is led to the slaughter, but he is the Shepherd of Israel and now of the whole world. . . . He is bruised and wounded, but he heals every disease and every infirmity. He is lifted up and nailed to the tree, but by the tree of life he restores us. . . . He lay down hislife, but he has the power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise. He dies, but he gives life, and by his death destroys death. He is buried, but he rises again. He goes down to hell, but he saves the damned."Only friendliness produces friendship. And we must look far deeper into the soul of man for the thing that produces friendliness." G. K. Chesterton
September 23rd 2004, 09:44 PM #19
A Word from a Holy Father
A small sea urchin warns sailors about good or stormy weather. When it
senses a storm, it attaches itself beneath a large rock so as not to be
swayed. By this example, there is nothing that God neglects. If God
does not abandon the urchin, then He will also embrace each of our lives
with the same loving care.
St. Basil the Great
September 23rd 2004, 09:50 PM #20
A Desert Story
It was said of Abba John the Persian that when some evildoers came to
harm him, he took a basin and wanted to wash their feet. But they were
filled with confusion, and began to do penance.
September 23rd 2004, 09:55 PM #21
A Desert Story
A layman of devout life came to see Abba Poemen. Now it happened that
there were other brethren with the old man, asking to hear a word from
him. The old man said to the faithful secular, "Say a word to the
brothers." When he insisted, the layman said, "Please excuse me, abba;
I myself have come to learn." But he was urged on by the old man and so
he said, "I am a secular. I sell vegetables and do business. I make
bundles into pieces, and make smaller ones; I buy cheap and sell dear.
What is more, I do not know how to speak of the Scriptures, so I will
tell you a parable. A man said to his friends, `"I want to go to see
the emperor. Come with me." One friend said to him, "I will go with
you half the way." Then he said to another friend, "Come and go with me
to the emperor," and he said to him, "I will take you as far as the
emperor's palace." He said to a third friend, "Come with me to the
emperor." He said, "I will come and take you to the palace and I will
stay and speak and assist you to approach the emperor."' They asked the
layman what was the point of the parable. He answered them, "The first
friend is asceticism, which leads the way; the second is chastity which
takes us to Heaven; and the third is almsgiving which with confidence
presents us to God our King." And the brethren went away edified.
September 30th 2004, 01:08 PM #22
Re: A Desert Story
The Hieromartyr Gregory, Enlightener of Great Armenia, was born in the year 257. He was descended from the line of the Parthian Arsakid emperors. The father of St. Gregory, Anak, in striving after the Armenian throne, had murdered his kinsman, the emperor Kursar, in consequence of which all the line of Anak was marked for destruction.
A certain kinsman saved Gregory: he carried off the infant from Armenia to Caesarea Cappadocia and raised him in the Christian Faith. At maturity, Gregory married, had two sons, but soon was left a widower. Gregory raised his sons in piety. One of them -- Orthanes, afterwards became a priest, and the other -- Arostanes, accepted monasticism and went off into the wilderness.
In order to atone for the sin of his father, who had murdered the father of Tiridates, Gregory entered into the service of the latter and was a faithful servant to him. Tiridates loved Gregory like a friend, but he was intolerant of the Christian confession of faith. After ascending the Armenian throne, he began to demand that St. Gregory renounce the Christian Faith.
The steadfastness of the saint embittered Tiridates, and he gave his faithful servant over to cruel tortures: they suspended the sufferer head downwards with a stone about his neck, for several days they choked him with a stinking smoke, they beat and ridiculed him, and forced him to walk in iron sandals inset with nails.
During the time of these sufferings St. Gregory sang Psalms. In prison the Lord healed all his wounds. When Gregory again stood before the emperor cheerful and unharmed, he was astonished and gave orders to repeat the torments. St. Gregory endured them, not wavering, with all his former determination and bearing. They then poured hot tin over him and threw him into a pit filled with vipers. The Lord, however, saved His chosen one: the snakes did him no harm.
Some pious women fed him with bread, secretly lowering it into the pit. A holy angel, appearing to the martyr, invigorated his powers and encouraged his spirit. Thus it went on for fourteen years. During this time the emperor Tiridates wrought yet another evil deed: he martyred the holy virgin St. Ripsima, the aged abbess Gaiana and another 35 virgins from one of the Asia Minor monasteries.
October 2nd 2004, 11:01 AM #23
Re: A Desert Story
[ From a vast site: http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/sub_all_topics.html ]
Gleanings from the Holy Fathers
...we should search the Scriptures in accordance with the Lord's commandment, so that we may find eternal life in them (cf. John 5:39); and we should pay attention to the meaning of the psalms and troparia, becoming in this way totally aware of our ignorance. For if one does not taste of knowledge, says St. Basil the Great, one does not know how much one lacks. St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 194)
A life of spiritual endeavor is the mother of sanctity; from it is born the first experience of perception of the mysteries of Christ -- which is called the first stage of spiritual knowledge. St. Isaac of Syria
BROTHER: To what extent is a man held capable of revelation?
OLD MAN: To the same extent as a man is capable of stripping off sin, both internally and externally. For when a man dies by spiritual sacrifice, he dies to all the words and deeds of this habitation of time, and when he has committed his life to the life which is after the revivification, divine grace bestows itself upon him, and he becomes capable of divine revelations. For the impurity of the world is a dark covering before the face of the soul, and it prevents it from discerning spiritual wisdom. E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984, pp. 264-265
Better poverty with knowledge than riches with ignorance. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.
But we also know that the fulfillment of the commandments of God gives true knowledge, since it is through this that the soul gains health. How could a rational soul be healthy, if it is sick in its cognitive faculty? So we know that the commandments of God also grant knowledge, and not that alone, but deification also. St. Gregory Palamas, The Triads
He is not yet a faithful servant who bases himself on bare knowledge alone; a faithful servant is he who professes his faith by obedience to Christ, Who gave the commandments. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90
If you love knowledge, love also work, for bare knowledge puffs a man up. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90
If you will keep in mind that, according to the Scriptures, the Lord’s "judgments are in all the earth" (Psalms 104:7), then every event will teach you knowledge of God. St Mark the Ascetic, from "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90.
If you wish to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth, always urge yourself to rise above sensory things and to cling with hope to God alone. Thus compelling yourself to turn inwards, you will meet principalities and powers, which wage war against you by suggestions in thoughts. If you overcome them by prayer and remain in good hope, you will receive Divine grace, which will free you from the wrath to come. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90
Knowledge is an excellent thing; it helps prayer, inciting the power of the mind to the contemplation of Divine knowledge. "153 Texts on Prayer", St Nilus of Mt Sinai, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 127 - 135.
Knowledge that is occupied with visible things and receives instruction concerning them through the senses, is called natural. But knowledge that is occupied with the noetic power that is within things and with incorporeal natures is called spiritual, since perception in this case is received by the spirit and not by the senses. In both of these kinds of knowledge matter comes to the soul from without to give her comprehension. But that knowledge which is occupied with Divinity is called supranatural, or rather, un-knowing and knowledge-transcending. Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian
Knowledge without corresponding practice is still insecure, even if it is true. All is made firm by practice. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90
Love is preceded by passionlessness; knowledge is preceded by love. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.
Some hold that the practice of the virtues constitutes the truest form of spiritual knowledge. In that case, we should make every effort to manifest our faith and knowledge throughout our actions. Whoever trusts blindly to knowledge alone should call to mind the words: "They claim to know God, but in their actions they deny Him" (Titus 1:16). St. John of Karpathos "The Philokalia: the Complete Text" (volume I), by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, trans. By G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and (Bishop) Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 298 - 309
That which is true for the virtues is true also for knowledge. As each virtue begets other virtues, and begets knowledge, so each sort of knowledge begets another. One virtue produces another and sustains it, and the same is true of knowledge. Fr. (St.) Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ
The bosom of the Lord is knowledge of God; he who rests therein will be a theologian. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.
The highest adornment of the head is the crown; the highest adornment of the heart is knowledge of God. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.
The knowledge of God is a mountain steep indeed and difficult to climb - the majority of people scarcely reach its base. If one were a Moses, he would ascend higher and hear the sound of trumpets which, as the text of the history says, becomes louder as one advances. For the preaching of the divine nature is truly a trumpet blast, which strikes the hearing, being already loud at the beginning but becoming yet louder at the end. St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses
There is a knowledge that precedes faith, and there is a knowledge born of faith. Knowledge that precedes faith is natural knowledge; and that which is born of faith is spiritual knowledge. What is natural knowledge? Knowledge is natural that discerns good from evil, and this is also called natural discernment, by which we know to discern good from evil naturally, without being taught. God has implanted this in rational nature, and with teaching it receives growth and assistance; there is no one who does not have it. Spiritual Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian
Therefore, there is no other way of attaining to spiritual knowledge except by following this order, which one of the prophets has neatly expressed: 'Sow for yourselves unto righteousness; reap the hope of life; enlighten yourselves with the light of knowledge' (Hosea 10:12). First, then, we sow for ourselves unto righteousness - that is, we must increase practical perfection by works of righteousness. Then we must reap the hope of life - that is, we must gather the fruit of spiritual virtues by expelling our carnal vices. Thus we shall be able to enlighten ourselves with the light of knowledge. St. John Cassian, The Conferences
When he who is filled with knowledge and he who practices good meet one another, the Lord is between them. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.
Where sin enters, there too enters ignorance; but the hearts of the righteous are filled with knowledge. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.
But also know that the fulfillment of the commandments of God gives true knowledge, since it is through this that the soul gains health. How could a rational soul be healthy, if it is sick in it's cognitive faculty? So we know that the commandments of God also grant knowledge, and not that alone, but deification also. St. Gregory Palamas
7. If you love true knowledge, devote yourself to the ascetic life; for mere theoretical knowledge puffs a man up (cf. 1Co 8:1). REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779
12. Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice.
13. Often our knowledge becomes darkened because we fail to put things into practice. For when we have totally neglected to practice something, our memory of it will gradually disappear.
14. For this reason Scripture urges us to acquire the knowledge of God, so that through our works we may serve Him rightly. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779
91. Each man's knowledge is genuine to the extent that it is confirmed by gentleness, humility and love. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779
144. Knowledge of created beings is one thing, and knowledge of the divine truth is another. The second surpasses the first just as the sun outshines the moon. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779
As St. Maximos has said, "To think that one knows prevents one from advancing in knowledge." St. John Chrysostom points out that there is an ignorance which is praiseworthy: it consists in knowing consciously that one knows nothing. In addition, there is a form of ignorance that is worse than any other: not to know that one does not know. Similarly, there is a knowledge that is falsely so called, which occurs when, as St. Paul says, one thinks that one knows but does not know (see I Corinthians 8:2). REF:St. Peter of Damaskos,"The Four Virtues of the Soul", from G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, "The Philokalia: Vol. III," (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp. 100 - 101
October 2nd 2004, 10:22 PM #24
Christianity of 130 AD
This is what the earliest Christians looked like, as portrayed to an enquirer by a disciple of [most likely] St. Paul.
'The Epistle of Mathetes' to Diognetus [130AD]
Chapter 1: Occasion of the Epistle [To top]
Since I see thee, most excellent Diognetus, exceedingly desirous to learn the mode of worshipping God prevalent among the Christians, and inquiring very carefully and earnestly concerning them, what God they trust in, and what form of religion they observe, so as all to look down upon the world itself, and despise death, while they neither esteem those to be gods that are reckoned such by the Greeks, nor hold to the superstition of the Jews; and what is the affection which they cherish among themselves; and why, in fine, this new kind or practice [of piety] has only now entered into the world, and not long ago; I cordially welcome this thy desire, and I implore God, who enables us both to speak and to hear, to grant to me so to speak, that, above all, I may hear you have been edified, and to you so to hear, that I who speak may have no cause of regret for having done so.
Chapter 2: The Vanity of Idols [To top]
Come, then, after you have freed yourself from all prejudices possessing your mind, and laid aside what you have been accustomed to, as something apt to deceive you, and being made, as if from the beginning, a new man, inasmuch as, according to your own confession, you are to be the hearer of a new [system of] doctrine; come and contemplate, not with your eyes only, but with your understanding, the substance and the form of those whom ye declare and deem to be gods. Is not one of them a stone similar to that on which we tread? Is not a second brass, in no way superior to those vessels which are constructed for our ordinary use? Is not a third wood, and that already rotten? Is not a fourth silver, which needs a man to watch it, lest it be stolen? Is not a fifth iron, consumed by rust? Is not a sixth earthenware, in no degree more valuable than that which is formed for the humblest purposes? Are not all these of corruptible matter? Are they not fabricated by means of iron and fire? Did not the sculptor fashion one of them, the brazier a second, the silversmith a third, and the potter a fourth? Was not every one of them, before they were formed by the arts of these [workmen] into the shape of these [gods], each in its own way subject to change? Would not those things which are now vessels, formed of the same materials, become like to such, if they met with the same artificers? Might not these, which are now worshipped by you, again be made by men vessels similar to others? Are they not all deaf? Are they not blind? Are they not without life? Are they not destitute of feeling? Are they not incapable of motion? Are they not all liable to rot? Are they not all corruptible? These things ye call gods; these ye serve; these ye worship; and ye become altogether like to them. For this reason ye hate the Christians, because they do not deem these to be gods. But do not ye yourselves, who now think and suppose [such to be gods], much more cast contempt upon them than they [the Christians do]? Do ye not much more mock and insult them, when ye worship those that are made of stone and earthenware, without appointing any persons to guard them; but those made of silver and gold ye shut up by night, and appoint watchers to look after them by day, lest they be stolen? And by those gifts which ye mean to present to them, do ye not, if they are possessed of sense, rather punish [than honour] them? But if, on the other hand, they are destitute of sense, ye convict them of this fact, while ye worship them with blood and the smoke of sacrifices. Let any one of you suffer such indignities! Let any one of you endure to have such things done to himself! But not a single human being will, unless compelled to it, endure such treatment, since he is endowed with sense and reason. A stone, however, readily bears it, seeing it is insensible. Certainly you do not show [by your conduct] that he [your God] is possessed of sense. And as to the fact that Christians are not accustomed to serve such gods, I might easily find many other things to say; but if even what has been said does not seem to any one sufficient, I deem it idle to say anything further.
Chapter 3: Superstitions of the Jews [To top]
And next, I imagine that you are most desirous of hearing something on this point, that the Christians do not observe the same forms of divine worship as do the Jews. The Jews, then, if they abstain from the kind of service above described, and deem it proper to worship one God as being Lord of all, [are right]; but if they offer Him worship in the way which we have described, they greatly err. For while the Gentiles, by offering such things to those that are destitute of sense and hearing, furnish an example of madness; they, on the other hand by thinking to offer these things to God as if He needed them, might justly reckon it rather an act of folly than of divine worship. For He that made heaven and earth, and all that is therein, and gives to us all the things of which we stand in need, certainly requires none of those things which He Himself bestows on such as think of furnishing them to Him. But those who imagine that, by means of blood, and the smoke of sacrifices and burnt-offerings, they offer sacrifices [acceptable] to Him, and that by such honours they show Him respect,--these, by supposing that they can give anything to Him who stands in need of nothing, appear to me in no respect to differ from those who studiously confer the same honour on things destitute of sense, and which therefore are unable to enjoy such honours.
Chapter 4: The Other Observances of the Jews [To top]
But as to their scrupulosity concerning meats, and their superstition as respects the Sabbaths, and their boasting about circumcision, and their fancies about fasting and the new moons, which are utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice,--I do not think that you require to learn anything from me. For, to accept some of those things which have been formed by God for the use of men as properly formed, and to reject others as useless and redundant,--how can this be lawful? And to speak falsely of God, as if He forbade us to do what is good on the Sabbath-days,--how is not this impious? And to glory in the circumcision of the flesh as a proof of election, and as if, on account of it, they were specially beloved by God,--how is it not a subject of ridicule? And as to their observing months and days, as if waiting upon the stars and the moon, and their distributing, according to their own tendencies, the appointments of God, and the vicissitudes of the seasons, some for festivities, and others for mourning,--who would deem this a part of divine worship, and not much rather a manifestation of folly? I suppose, then, you are sufficiently convinced that the Christians properly abstain from the vanity and error common [to both Jews and Gentiles], and from the busy-body spirit and vain boasting of the Jews; but you must not hope to learn the mystery of their peculiar mode of worshipping God from any mortal.
Chapter 5: The Manners of the Christians [To top]
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
Chapter 6: The Relation of Christians to the World [To top]
To sum up all in one word--what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake.
Chapter 7: The Manifestation of Christ [To top]
For, as I said, this was no mere earthly invention which was delivered to them, nor is it a mere human system of opinion, which they judge it right to preserve so carefully, nor has a dispensation of mere human mysteries been committed to them, but truly God Himself, who is almighty, the Creator of all things, and invisible, has sent from heaven, and placed among men, [Him who is] the truth, and the holy and incomprehensible Word, and has firmly established Him in their hearts. He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, or angel, or ruler, or any one of those who bear sway over earthly things, or one of those to whom the government of things in the heavens has been entrusted, but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things--by whom He made the heavens--by whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds--whose ordinances all the stars faithfully observe--from whom the sun has received the measure of his daily course to be observed--whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine in the night, and whom the stars also obey, following the moon in her course; by whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to whom all are subject--the heavens and the things that are therein, the earth and the things that are therein, the sea and the things that are therein--fire, air, and the abyss--the things which are in the heights, the things which are in the depths, and the things which lie between. 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? Do you not see them exposed to wild beasts, that they may be persuaded to deny the Lord, and yet not overcome? Do you not see that the more of them are punished, the greater becomes the number of the rest? This does not seem to be the work of man: this is the power of God; these are the evidences of His manifestation.
Chapter 8: The Miserable State of Men Before the Coming of the Word [To top]
For, who of men at all understood before His coming what God is? Do you accept of the vain and silly doctrines of those who are deemed trustworthy philosophers? of whom some said that fire was God, calling that God to which they themselves were by and by to come; and some water; and others some other of the elements formed by God. But if any one of these theories be worthy of approbation, every one of the rest of created things might also be declared to be God. But such declarations are simply the startling and erroneous utterances of deceivers; and no man has either seen Him, or made Him known, but He has revealed Himself. And He has manifested Himself through faith, to which alone it is given to behold God. For God, the Lord and Fashioner of all things, who made all things, and assigned them their several positions, proved Himself not merely a friend of mankind, but also long-suffering [in His dealings with them.] Yea, He was always of such a character, and still is, and will ever be, kind and good, and free from wrath, and true, and the only one who is [absolutely] good; and He formed in His mind a great and unspeakable conception, which He communicated to His Son alone. As long, then, as He held and preserved His own wise counsel in concealment, He appeared to neglect us, and to have no care over us. But after He revealed and laid open, through His beloved Son, the things which had been prepared from the beginning, He conferred every blessing all at once upon us, so that we should both share in His benefits, and see and be active [in His service]. Who of us would ever have expected these things? He was aware, then, of all things in His own mind, along with His Son, according to the relation subsisting between them.
Chapter 9: Why the Son was Sent So Late [To top]
As long then as the former time endured, He permitted us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able. But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Saviour who is able to save even those things which it was [formerly] impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counsellor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honour, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food.
Chapter 10: The Blessings that will Flow from Faith [To top]
If you also desire [to possess] this faith, you likewise shall receive first of all the knowledge of the Father. For God has loved mankind, on whose account He made the world, to whom He rendered subject all the things that are in it, to whom He gave reason and understanding, to whom alone He imparted the privilege of looking upwards to Himself, whom He formed after His own image, to whom He sent His only-begotten Son, to whom He has promised a kingdom in heaven, and will give it to those who have loved Him. And when you have attained this knowledge, with what joy do you think you will be filled? Or, how will you love Him who has first so loved you? And if you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbours, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can any one by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all constitute His majesty. On the contrary he 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 thou shalt see, while still on earth, that God in the heavens rules over [the universe]; then thou shall begin to speak the mysteries of God; then shalt thou both love and admire those that suffer punishment because they will not deny God; then shall thou condemn the deceit and error of the world when thou shall know what it is to live truly in heaven, when thou shalt despise that which is here esteemed to be death, when thou shalt 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 shalt thou admire those who for righteousness' sake endure the fire that is but for a moment, and shalt count them happy when thou shalt know [the nature of] that fire.
Chapter 11: These Things are Worthy to be Known and Believed [To top]
I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything inconsistent with right reason; but having been a disciple of the Apostles, I am become a teacher of the Gentiles. I minister the things delivered to me to those that are disciples worthy of the truth. For who that is rightly taught and begotten by the loving Word, would not seek to learn accurately the things which have been clearly shown by the Word to His disciples, to whom the Word being manifested has revealed them, speaking plainly [to them], not understood indeed by the unbelieving, but conversing with the disciples, who, being esteemed faithful by Him, acquired a knowledge of the mysteries of the Father? For which s reason He sent the Word, that He might be manifested to the world; and He, being despised by the people [of the Jews], was, when preached by the Apostles, believed on by the Gentiles. This is He who was from the beginning, who appeared as if new, and was found old, and yet who is ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints. This is He who, being from everlasting, is to-day called the Son; through whom the Church is enriched, and grace, widely spread, increases in the saints. furnishing understanding, revealing mysteries, announcing times, rejoicing over the faithful. giving to those that seek, by whom the limits of faith are not broken through, nor the boundaries set by the fathers passed over. Then the fear of the law is chanted, and the grace of the prophets is known, and the faith of the gospels is established, and the tradition of the Apostles is preserved, and the grace of the Church exults; which grace if you grieve not, you shall know those things which the Word teaches, by whom He wills, and when He pleases. For whatever things we are moved to utter by the will of the Word commanding us, we communicate to you with pains, and from a love of the things that have been revealed to us.
Chapter 12: The Importance of Knowledge to True Spiritual Life [To top]
When you have read and carefully listened to these things, you shall know what God bestows on such as rightly love Him, being made [as ye are] a paradise of delight, presenting in yourselves a tree bearing all kinds of produce and flourishing well, being adorned with various fruits. For in this place the tree of knowledge and the tree of life have been planted; but it is not the tree of knowledge that destroys-it is disobedience that proves destructive. Nor truly are those words without significance which are written, how God from the beginning planted the tree of life in the midst of paradise, revealing through knowledge the way to life, and when those who were first formed did not use this [knowledge] properly, they were, through the fraud of the Serpent, stripped naked. For neither can life exist without knowledge, nor is knowledge secure without life. Wherefore both were planted close together. The Apostle, perceiving the force [of this conjunction], and blaming that knowledge which, without true doctrine, is admitted to influence life, declares, "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth." For he who thinks he knows anything without true knowledge, and such as is witnessed to by life, knows nothing, but is deceived by the Serpent, as not loving life. But he who combines knowledge with fear, and seeks after life, plants in hope, looking for fruit. Let your heart be your wisdom; and let your life be true knowledge inwardly received. Bearing this tree and displaying its fruit, thou shalt always gather in those things which are desired by God, which the Serpent cannot reach, and to which deception does not approach; nor is Eve then corrupted, but is trusted as a virgin; and salvation is manifested, and the Apostles are filled with understanding, and the Passover of the Lord advances, and the choirs are gathered together, and are arranged in proper order, and the Word rejoices in teaching the saints,--by whom the Father is glorified: to whom be glory for ever.
October 4th 2004, 10:50 AM #25
Re: Christianity of 130 AD
From: URL link
October 7th 2004, 09:46 AM #26
Last edited by Rusty T; October 7th 2004 at 09:56 AM.
October 7th 2004, 11:53 PM #27
A Word From the Desert
There was a father, who lived before us, called Patermuthius. He was
the first of the monks in this place and was also the first to devise
the monastic habit. In his former life as a pagan he had been a brigand
chief and a tomb robber, and had become notorious for his crimes. But
he found the following occasion of salvation. One night he attacked the
hermitage of an anchoress, intending to rob it. By some stratagem he
contrived to get himself onto the roof. But not finding any means by
which to enter the inner chamber, or alternatively, by which to retreat,
he remained on the road till morning, deep in thought. He slept
briefly, and in a dream saw someone like an emperor who said to him, "Do
not keep watch, pondering on tombs and petty crimes. If you wish,
instead, to change your way of life to one of virtue, and to enter
military service with the angels, you will receive the power to do so
from me." He accepted joyfully, and the emperor showed him a regiment
of monks and entrusted him with their command.
When he woke up, he saw the anchoress standing near him, "Where are you
from, my good man?" she said. "What is your station in life?" He
replied that he no longer knew anything, and asked her to direct him to
the church. She did so, and then throwing himself at the feet of the
priests, he asked to become a Christian and to be given an opportunity
for repentance. The priests, since they recognized him, were amazed,
but afterwards they admonished him and taught him to be a murderer no
longer. He asked them if he could listen to the Psalms, but when he had
heard only the first three verses of the first psalm, he said that for
the time being that was enough for him to learn. After staying with
them for three days, he went out and at once hurried off into the
desert. He lived in the desert for three years, spending his time
praying and weeping, and the wild plants were sufficient for his food.
Then he returned to the church and announced that the lesson had been
made effective in his life. For the grace, he said, had been given to
him by God to recite the Scriptures by heart. And the priests were once
again astonished at him for having attained the highest degree of
ascesis. They then baptized (lit. illuminated) him, and entreated him
to stay with them. But after spending seven days with them, he departed
for the desert again. And what is more, when he had completed seven
years in the outer desert, the man was granted a wonderful grace. For
every Sunday he found a load of bread beside his head. Then he prayed
and ate it and was satisfied until the following Sunday.
Abba Copres speaking in the *Historia Monachorum* 10.38
October 13th 2004, 04:51 PM #28
Re: A Word From the Desert
October 14th 2004, 10:47 AM #29
A Word From the Desert
A very simple Athonite elder said,
"These learned people get into trouble
when they try to research the Divine.
When the rope is too short, how does
one dare to descend into the depths
of the ravine?"
from An Athonite Gerontikon
October 19th 2004, 12:55 PM #30
Re: A Word From the Desert
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