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201. The Way Of Light
(I Will Embrace The Child-Like)
The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following. Thou shall love Him who created thee: thou shall glorify Him who redeemed thee from death. Thou shall be simple in heart, and rich in spirit. Thou shall not join thyself to those who walk in the way of death...Thou shall not exalt thyself but shall be of a lowly mind. Thou shall not take evil counsel against thy neighbor. Thou shall not be a corrupter of youth. Thou shall love thy neighbor more then thine own soul. Thou shall not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shall thou destroy it after it is born. Thou shall not withdraw thy hand from thy son, or form thy daughter, but from their infancy thou shall teach them the fear of the Lord. Receive as good things the trials which come upon thee. Thou shall seek out everyday the faces of the saints, either by word examining them, and going to exhort them, and meditating how to save a soul by the word or by thy hands thou shalt labor for the redemption of thy sins...This is the way of light.
--Epistle Attributed to Barnabas, 2ond century, Chapter 19, CCEL
Jesus teaches that one must be child-like to enter the Kingdom of God and that the one who leads them astray would be better off if he/she had never been born. This epistle from the early second century teaches what we in 20th century America have forgotten: the killing of children, born or unborn, physically or spiritually, is a great evil that will not leave the perpetrator unscathed. By killing their children, physically or spiritually, they are killing the child-light within themselves and are, in effect, aborting their own Godly spirits and humanity.
What are my views on abortion?
202. The Way of Darkness
(Lord, Fill Me With Light)
But the way of darkness is crooked, and full of cursing; for it is the way of eternal death with punishment, in which way are the things that destroy the soul, viz, idolatry, over-confidence, the arrogance of power, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, adultery, murder, rapine, haughtiness, transgression, deceit, malice, self-sufficiency, magic, want of the fear of God, (but incline to) hatred of truth, pity not the needy, murder of children, destroyers of the workmanship of God....
--Epistle Attributed to Barnabas, 2ond century, Chapter 20, CCEL
Jesus warns that spiritually blind people will lead others that are blind into the pit of their own destruction. ATake care then that the light in you not become darkness!@ This way of darkness is crooked since it is built on ego-desires and it destroys the soul as it destroys the workmanship of GodB-our own spiritual life.
Am I encouraged to continue to kill my ego so that I may truly live?
203. Order In Creation
(I Will Judge Angels)
On the fifth day the land and water brought forth their progenies. On the sixth day the things that were wanting were created; and thus God raised up man from the soil, as lord of all the things which He created upon the earth and the water. Yet He created angels and archangels before He created man, placing spiritual beings before earthly ones. For light was made before sky and the earth. This sixth day is called parasceve, that is tho say, the preparation of the kingdom. For he perfected Adam, whom He made after His image and likeness. But for this reason He completed His works before He created angels and fashioned man, lest perchance they should falsely assert that they had been His helpers.
--Victorinus, 3rd Century Church Father, On the Creation of the World, CCEL
Colosians 2:18 1 Corinthian 6:3
While the wholly spiritual angels were created before mankind, and, ultimately, we will become wholly spiritual beings; we are not to worship angels and, in fact, we will someday judge the angels! Why is this so? Perhaps it=s because angels, never having had bodies, were never subject to the illusions that we, being both fleshly and spiritual, are subject to. When the angels fell from grace, they could not blame it on fleshly desires that creates the human ego. They fell purely due to self-will and, thus, their fall was considered more grievous since they were not blinded by a material point of view. By the time we become spirits, we will have learned the lessons form the changes due to both free-will and ego.
In what ways do I imagine that I will judge the angels?
204. Fearless Witness To The Truth
(I Will Give True Testimony)
Ambrose, Bishop, to the most blessed Prince and most Christian Emperor Valentinian. As all men who live under the Roman sway engage in military service under you, the Emperors and Princes of the world, so too do you yourselves owe service to Almighty God and our holy faith...Since, then, most Christian Emperor, there is due from you to the true God both faith and zeal, care and devotion for the faith, I wonder how the hope has risen up to some, that you would feel it a duty to restore by your command alters to the gods of the heathen...What will you answer a priest who says to you, "The Church does not seek your gifts, because you have adorned the heathen temples with gifts. The Alter of Christ rejects your gifts, because you have made an alter for idols...The Lord Jesus refuses and rejects your service, because you have served idols, for He said to you: You cannot serve two masters."
--St. Ambrose, Epistle 17, CCEL
I am amazed at the guts of St. Ambrose, a priest, in addressing an Emperor! The Bible points out many cases of highly spiritual people Atalking straight@ to a King with mixed, usually negative, results. John the Baptist lost his head due to his straight talk with King Herod and King Ahab pursued the prophet Elijah for years with the intent of killing him. In other cases, it was more favorable, as when St. Paul addressed King Agrippa. In any event, straight talk in the name of truth, regardless of the consequences, is the result of great spiritual maturity.
Am I willing to talk the truth to those in authority even if it seems to be to my detriment?
205. Evil Is Taught
(I Will Not Teach Lies)
There is nothing evil by nature, but it is by use that evil things become such. So I say...that man was made with a free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God....For this was the object to be gained by free-will. And man after his creation receives a commandment from God, and from this at once rises evil; for he does not obey the divine command, and this alone is evil, namely, disobedience, which had a beginning. For no one has it in his power to say that it is without an origin, when its author had an origin. But you will be sure to ask whence arose this disobedience. It is clearly recorded in Holy Scripture ...that man was not made by God in this condition, but that he has come to it by some teaching. For man did not receive such a nature as this. For if it were the case that his nature was such, this would not have come upon him by teaching. How one says in Holy Writ, that "man has learnt (evil)". I say, then, that disobedience to God is taught. For this alone is evil which is produced in opposition to the purpose of God, for man would not learn evil by itself....For my part I say that the beginning of evil was envy, and it arose from man's being distinguished by God with higher honor. Now evil is disobedience to the commandment of God.
--Methodius, 3rd century Church father, Concerning Free-Will, CCEL
I think that it is human nature to seek the easy path, to hear what one wants to hear, in order to feel good about one=s attitudes and behaviors. Unfortunately, what I want to hear may have no bearing on the truth which may require work on my part to grow and change. Definitely not the easy way! Unless I am willing to choose teachers that challenge my complacency, I may never grow spiritually.
Am I willing to learn from teachers who are willing to tell me the truth and not just what I want to hear?
206. Encourage Forgiveness
(I Will Forgive)
Although my lord and brother has already begged of your nobleness that you would see that Tutis should be most safe, yet it has been allowed to me to Commend the same person in a letter, in order that, by the petition being doubled, he may be held all the safer. For let it be granted that a youthful fault and error of a yet unsettled age has injured him so as to inflict a scar on his early years, still one, who did not yet know what was due to right conduct, has gone wrong almost without contracting blame. For when he came to a right state of mind and to reflection, he understood on better thoughts that a theatrical life was to be condemned....It behooves your Excellency to show favor to good intentions, so that he who, by the goodness of God, has entered on a pious duty, should not be forced to sink into the pitfall of the theater.
--Sulpihus Severus, Letter 5, CCEL
I am not about to argue that the theater is an evil way of life any more then I would say that it is evil for a slave to try to run away from his slavery. These say more about the culture than about religion and faith. The real issue here is forgiveness. While I am not arguing that there are not real things to be forgiven, these two examples indicate that, with the perspective of hindsight, there are fewer things to forgive than I would have imagined.
Do I hold unrealistic grievances against people and circumstances that primarily hurt my own spiritual growth?
207. Reigning With Christ
(We Will Be Priests Of Christ)
Then the righteous shall go forth from their hiding places, and shall find all things covered with carcases and bones. But the whole race of the wicked shall utterly perish; and there shall no longer be any nation in this world, but the nation of God alone. Then for seven continuous years the woods shall be untouched, nor shall timber be cut form the mountains, but the arms of the nations shall be burnt, and now there shall be no war, but peace and everlasting rest. But when the thousand years shall be completed, the world shall be renewed by God, and the heavens shall be folded together, and the earth shall be changed, and God shall transform men into the similitude of angels, and they shall be white as snow; and they shall always be employed in the sight of the Almighty, and shall make offerings to their Lord, and serve Him forever.
--Lactantius, Book 7: Of A Happy Life, Chapter 26, CCEL
Revelations 20: 1-10
When I read about the end times, I feel both joy and fear/confusion. I feel joy for the saints and their destiny, and fear/confusion for the plight of the wicked. Could I become one of the wicked? If God loves me more than my mother could, and my mother would never condemn me to eternal torture, would God do so? I must believe that no one is condemned by accident, and that those who are is due completely to their own free will.
How is the infinite love and mercy of God reconciled with the final judgement and punishment?
208. Exhortation To Righteousness
(For Freedom Christ Set Us Free)
Let those who are hungry come, that being fed with heavenly food, they may lay aside their lasting hunger; let those who are athirst come, that they may with full mouth draw forth the water of salvation from an ever-flowing fountain. By this divine food and drink the blind shall both see, and the deaf hear, and the dumb speak, and the lame walk, and the foolish shall be wise, and the sick shall be strong, and the dead shall come to life again. For whoever by his virtue has trampled upon the corruptions of the earth, the supreme and truthful arbiter will raise him to life and to perpetual light. Let know one trust in riches, no one in badges of authority, no one even in royal power: these things do not make a man immortal.... Let us therefore apply ourselves to righteousness, which will alone, as an inseparable companion, lead us to God; and while a spirit rules these limbs, let us serve God with unwearied service, let us keep our posts and watches, let us boldly engage with the enemy whom we know, that victorious and triumphant over our conquered adversary, we may obtain from the Lord that reward of valor which He Himself has promised.
--Lactantius, Book 7: Of A Happy Life, Chapter 27, CCEL
Lactantius said: ALet us apply ourselves to righteousness which alone...leads us to God...and lets us serve God with unwearied service.@ St. Paul says: AThrough the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness.@ St. Paul defines righteousness as faith working through love (which is service).
How well do I serve my neighbors, my Church, my Country?
209. Resolving Issues
(We Will Meet Together In The Spirit)
Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to all the Bishops constituted throughout Sicily....This also we have plainly perceived to be a thing that ought to be done; that once in the year your whole fraternity should assemble, at Syracuse or Cabana, receiving...Peter...subdeacon of our See, you may settle with due discretion whatever things pertain to the advantage of the churches of the province, or to the relief of the necessities of the poor and oppressed, or to the admonition of all, and the correction of those whose transgressions may peradventure be proved. from which council far be animosities, which are the nutriment of crimes, and may inward grudges die away, and that discord of souls which is beyond measure execrable. Let concord well-pleasing to God, and charity, approve you as His priests. Conduct all things, therefore, with such deliberation and calmness that yours may most worthily be called an Episcopal Council.
--St. Gregory the Great, Book 1-Epistle 1, CCEL
From the Council of Jerusalem in about AD 60 to the Second Vatican Council of the 1960's and beyond, Christian leaders have been getting together to resolve the problems of their day. As with the rest of us, everyone has different gifts and no one person, or group of people, have all of the answers. By coming together as the Body of Christ, the Church, the Holy Spirit speaks most clearly and completely. The message of the Holy Spirit may be much more inclusive than I believe!
Am I willing to come together with my brothers and sisters and listen to and learn from their truth?
210. Hardships Of The Spiritual Life
(I Will Suffer With Those Who Suffer)
Gregory to Theoctista, Sister of the Emperor. With how great devotion my mind prostrates itself before your Venerableness I cannot fully express in words; nor yet do I labor to give utterance to it , since, even though I were silent, you read in your heart your own sense of my devotion. I wonder, however, that you withdraw your countenance, till of late bestowed on me, from this my recent engagement in the pastoral office; wherein, under color of episcopacy, I have been brought back to the world; in which I am involved in such great earthly cares as I do not at all remember having been subjected to even in a lay state of life. For I have lost the deep joys of my quiet, and seem to have risen outwardly while inwardly falling down. Whence I grieve to find myself banished far from the face of my Maker. For I used to strive daily to win my way outside the world, outside the flesh; to drive all phantasms of the body from the eyes of my soul and to see incorporeally supernal joys...But, having been suddenly dashed from this summit of things by the whirlwind of this trial, I have fallen into fears and tremors, since, even though I have no fears for myself, I am greatly afraid for those who have been committed to me. On every side I am tossed by the waves of business, and sunk by storms....
--St. Gregory the Great, Book 1: Epistle 5, CCEL
This personal letter of St. Gregory from his first year as Bishop of Rome is very telling. He indicates how inadequate he feels about his Ajob@ and how much he missed the monastic life. He even felt that he had been banished from God=s sight. He obviously grew from his suffering, as did St. Paul, for he is later referred to as AGregory the Great@. By the patient and humble acceptance of the hardships of their callings, and their willingness to rely on the Lord=s power, they have become inspiring examples of our faith in Jesus.
Am I willing to pursue God=s will even if it means I must suffer greatly?
211. Morning Prayer To The Holy Trinity
(Bless The Lord My Soul!)
As I rise from sleep I thank Thee, O Holy Trinity, for through Thy great goodness and patience Thou was not angered with me, an idler and sinner, nor hast Thou destroyed me in my sins, but hast shown Thy usual love for men, and when I was prostrate in despair, Thou hast raised me to keep the morning watch and glorify Thy power. And now enlighten my mind's eye and open my mouth to study Thy words and understand Thy commandments and do Thy will and sing to Thee in heartfelt adoration and praise Thy Most Holy Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
--St. Basil the Great, Prayer Book
Psalm 103 is perhaps my favorite since it beautifully expresses the love of God. He forgives sins, cures illness, redeems life, crowns with love and tenderness, contents with good things and renews youthful strength (to name a few). How should I respond to this overflowing love? According to St. Basil, I should glorify, pray, study God's Word, understand and do His will, sing, adore and praise. In my worst moments of fear, despair, anxiety and depression, God is as near and dear as a tender Father. Bless the Lord my soul!
Do I recognize that glorifying, adorning, and praising God may be the answer to my problems? (Nott because God needs them, but I do.)
212. The Cross: Not Only A Mystery But An Example
(Jesus Is The Way, Truth, Life)
The cross of Christ, which was set up for the salvation of mortals, is both a mystery and an example: a sacrament where by the Divine power takes effect, an example whereby man=s devotion is excited: for to those who are rescued from the prisoner=s yolk Redemption further procures the power of following the way of the cross by imitation. For if the world=s wisdom so prides itself in its error that everyone follows the opinions and habits and whole manner of life of him whom he has chosen as his leader, how shall we share in the name of Christ save by being inseparably united to Him, Who is, as He Himself asserted, Athe Way, the Truth, and the Life@? The Way that is of holy living, the Truth of Divine doctrine, and the Life of eternal happiness.
--BSt. Leo the Great, Sermon 72: On the Lord=s Resurrection II, CCEL
Divine Doctrine + Holy Living = Eternal Happiness
I like this equation! It is the only one I=ve seen that satisfies me with its comprehensiveness and simplicity (and as an engineer, I=ve seen a lot of equations!) Since Christianity is a relationship with Jesus, I must base my life both on what He taught and what He did. The power of His teaching inspires my actions and my feeble efforts to live a Christ-like life reveal new insights into His doctrine. Together they lead to joy and peace in both this life and beyond.
In what ways can I get to know Jesus more and more?
213. Morning Prayer
(God Is Faithfulness And Love)
Having risen from sleep, I hasten to Thee, O Lord, Lover of men, and by Thy loving-kindness I strive to do thy work, and I pray to Thee: help me at all times, in everything, and deliver me from every evil thing of the world and every attack of the devil, and lead me into Thine eternal Kingdom. For Thou art my Creator, the Giver and Provider of everything good, and all mu hope is in Thee, and to Thee I send up glory, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
--St. Macarius the Great, Prayer Book
Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your love of me; whether or not I deserve it. If it weren't for Your love and sustaining grace, it would not only be inconceivable to do Your good work, I would find it difficult on many days to fight my human weaknesses like depression, guilt and shame. Be gracious to me, Lord, and fill me with Your joy so that I may pass it on to the others you have placed in my path. May You help me to live fully in the present moment LordB the moment You are with me. Amen.
Do I remember to pray in my weakness?
214. Jesus Experienced Our Weakness And Mortality
(Jesus Understands Me)
When the whole body of mankind had fallen in our first parents, the merciful God purposed so to succor, through His only-begotten Jesus Christ, His creatures made after His image, that the restoration of our nature should not be effected apart from it, and that our new estate should be an advance upon our original position. Happy, if we had not fallen from that which God made us; but happier, if we remain that which he has re-made us. It was much to have received form from Christ; it is more to have a substance in Christ... We were taken up by that nature, which did not break off the Branch from the common stock of our race, and yet excluded all taint of the sin which has passed upon all men. That is to say, weakness and mortality, which were not sin but the penalty of sin, were undergone by the Redeemer of the World in the way of punishment, that they might be reckoned as the price of redemption.
--St. Leo the Great, Sermon 72: On the Lord's Resurrection, CCEL
Jesus experienced all of the weaknesses and effects of mortality that I experience including feelings of frustration, anger and fear, the effects of hormones and aches/pains including physical death. None of these are things which His Father, Yahweh, could experience as a human being. I am grateful that He can understand me! Even more: He loved us so much that He improved upon our nature by adding His own divinity and making us all children of God thus overcoming our weakness and mortality!
Do I spend time meditating on what Jesus has done for me?
215. Teaching Through Experience
(Leadership = Service)
No one is allowed to preside over the assembly of the brethren, or even over himself, before he has not only deprived himself of all his property but has also learnt the fact that he is not his own maker and has no authority over his own actions. For one who renounces the world, whatever property or riches he may possess, must seek the common dwelling of a Coenobium, that he may not flatter himself in any way with what he has forsaken or what he has brought into the monastery. He must also be obedient to all, so as to learn that he must, as the Lord says, become again a little child, arrogating nothing to himself on the score of his age and the number of years which he now counts as lost while they were spent to no purpose in the world and, as he is only a beginner, and because of the novelty of the apprenticeship, which he knows he is serving in Christ's service, he should not hesitate tp submit himself even to his juniors. Further, he is to habituate himself to work and toil, so as to prepare with his own hands; in ;accordance with the Apostle's command, daily supply of food, either for his own use or for the wants of strangers; and that he may also forget the pride and luxury of his past life, and gain by grinding toil humility of heart. And so no one is chosen to be set over a congregation of brethren before that he who is to be placed in authority has learnt by obedience what he ought to enjoin on those who are to submit to him.....
--John Cassain, Book II: Of the Canonical System Of the Nocturnal Prayers and Psalms, Chapter 3, CCEL
1 Timothy 3: 1-13
No one is allowed to presideB even over himself--before he has learned the fact that he is not his own maker and has no authority over his own actions! In a country built on "rugged individualism", this admonition would not get many cheers. But is it false? It implies that everyone must learn obedience, the giving up of self-will, in order to truly master himself--much less rule anybody else. To teach discipline, one must become self-disciplined through obedience to authority. Christ, the ultimate authority, says that this obedience is reflected in service to others.
In what ways do I still need to learn self-discipline over my emotions, my desires, and my ego?
216. The True Nature Of Wealth
(God Chooses The Weak To Shame The Strong)
The nature then of Christ's teaching is attested by His own statements: that they who wish to arrive at eternal blessedness may understand the steps of assent to that high happiness. "Blessed", he saith, "are the poor in spirit for their's is the kingdom of heaven"...He shows that the kingdom of heaven must be assigned to those who are recommended by the humility of their spirits rather than by the smallness of their means. Yet it cannot be doubted that this possession of humility is more easily acquired by the poor than the rich: for submissiveness is the companion of those that want, while loftiness of mind dwells with riches. Notwithstanding, even in many of the rich is found that spirit which uses its abundance not for the increasing of its pride but on works of kindness, and counts that for the greatest gain which it expends in the relief of other's hardships. It is given to every kind and rank of men to share in this virtue, because men may be equal in will, though unequal in fortune: and it does not matter how different they are in earthly means, who are found equal in spiritual possessions. Blessed, therefore, is poverty which is not possessed with a love of temporal things, and does not seek to be increased with the riches of the world, but is eager to amass heavenly possessions.
--St. Leo the Great, Sermon 95: A Homily On the Beatitudes, CCEL
ABlessed is poverty which is not possessed with a love of temporal things and does not seek to be increased with the riches of the world.@ I am sure that dire poverty is no more of a blessing than extreme wealth in attaining holiness. The real question, if one has more than enough to live on, is how attached one is to his/her possessions. A poor person may dream and obsess about having more possessions while a rich person may not be owned by his belongings.
What is my attitude about wealth? Why do I want the security it may bring?
217. What Is Fasting?
(The Believers Were United, Heart And Soul)
For in the early days of the faith when only a few, and those the best of men, were known by the name of monks, who, as they received that mode of life from the Evangelist Mark of blessed memory, the first to preside over the Church at Alexandria as Bishop, not only preserved those grand characteristics for which we read, in the Acts of the Apostles, that the Church and multitude of believers in primitive times was famous..., but they added to these characteristics others still more sublime. For withdrawing into more secluded spots outside the cities they led a life marked by such rigorous abstinence that even to those of another creed the exalted character of their life was a standing marvel. For they gave themselves up to the reading of Holy Scripture and to prayers and to manual labor night and day with such fervor that they had no desire or thoughts of food--unless on the second or third day bodily hunger reminded them, and they took their meat and drink not so much because they wished for it as because it was necessary or life; and even then they took it not before sunset, in order that they might connect the hours of daylight with the practice of spiritual meditations, and the care of the body with the night, and might perform other things much more exalted than these.
--John Cassain, Book II: Of the Canonical System of the Nocturnal Prayers and Psalms, Chapter 4, CCEL
When I read about the fasting that was done in the early Christian communities, I cringe! This is definitely not one of my spiritual gifts. I enjoy food very much and do not eat just to stay alive. When I feel sinful because I enjoy my food, I remember the words of Isaiah which say, in effect, that true fasting is not inflicting pain on oneself, but doing good such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and releasing captives. This kind of fasting will result in our light blazing out and our spiritual wounds being quickly healed. May God grant me the ability to fast in this way!
Does fasting bring me closer to God?
218. The Pure Of Heart Shall See God
(The Pure Hearted Shall Receive Blessings)
"Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." Great is the happiness, beloved, of him for whom so great a reward is prepared. What, then, is it to have the heart pure, but to strive after those virtues which are mentioned (in the beatitudes)? And how great the blessedness of seeing God, what mind can conceive, what tongue declare? And yet this shall ensue when man's nature is transformed... Rightly is this blessedness promised to purity of heart. For the brightness of the true light will not be able to be seen by the unclean sight: and that which will be happiness to minds that are bright and clean, will be a punishment to those that are stained. Therefore, let the mists of earth's vanities be shunned and your inward eyes purged from all the filth of wickedness, that the sight may be free to feed on this great manifestation of God...
--St. Leo the Great, Sermon 94: Homily on the Beatitudes, CCEL
I must always remember that to see the truth and to be pure hearted, I must know and think the truth. I am a spirit that is temporarily using a body. In spite of appearances, I am not a separate entity, distinct from my brothers and sisters. We are all parts of the Body of Christ and what hurts one, hurts all. Our sense of separateness, generated by our egos, must be reduced if we are to see the true light.
Am I willing to learn the truth about myself in spite of appearances?
219. Duty Toward Parents Is Love Of Self
(Respect For A Father Expiates Sins)
Not every man that is a sinner is also undutiful: but the undutiful man cannot fail to be a sinner. Let us take an instance from general experience. Sons, though they be drunken and profligate and spendthrift, can yet love their fathers; and with all these vices, and, therefore, not free from guilt, may yet be free from undutifulness. But the undutiful, though they may be models of continence and frugality, are, by the mere fact of despising the parent, worse transgressors than if they were guilty of every sin that lies outside the category of undutifulness.
--Hilary of Poitiers, Fourth Century Church Father, Sermon On Psalm 1, CCEL
It took me many years to forgive my father for his alcoholism, the lack of attention he gave me and the pain and chaos he caused my family. A turning point came when I looked in a mirror one day and saw my father's face in mine! I had acquired many of his characteristics, good and bad. Would I want my children to forgive me for my less than stellar characteristics? Ultimately, to hate my father was a form of self hatred. To forgive him was to forgive myself and allow myself to grow emotionally and spiritually.
Have I learned to forgive others for their shortcomings so that I may be forgiven for mine?
220. An Entire Theology In A Psalm!
(The Upright Will Floruish)
The Holy Spirit made choice of this magnificent and noble introduction to the Psalter, in order to stir up weak man to a pure zeal for piety by the hope of happiness, to teach him the mystery of the Incarnate God, to promise him participation in heavenly glory, to declare the penalty of the Judgement, to proclaim the two-fold resurrection, to show forth the counsel of God as seen in His award. It is indeed after a faultless and mature design that He has laid the foundation of this great prophecy; His will being that the hope connected with the happy man might allure weak humanity to zeal for the Faith, that the analogy of the happiness of the tree might be the pledge of a happy hope, that the declaration of His wrath against the ungodly might set bounds of fear to the excesses of ungodliness, that difference in rank in the assemblies of the saints might mark difference in merit, that the standard appointed for judging the ways of the righteous might show forth the majesty of God.
--Hilary of Poitiers, Sermon on Psalm 1, CCEL
Reading the first Psalm after reading St. Hilary's comments leaves me with a sense of amazement; an entire theology in only six verses! It is all built on something that all men innately want but generally don't know how to get: happiness.
In what ways have I tried to find happiness apart from God and His will?
221. Symbols Of Christ
(I Shall Be With You)
And Gideon, moved with that message, when he heard that, though thousands of people failed, God would deliver His own from their enemies by means of one man, offered a kid, and according to the word of the Angel, laid its flesh and unleavened cakes upon the rock, and poured the broth upon them. And as soon as the Angel touched them with the end of the staff which he bore, fire burst forth out of the rock, and so the sacrifice which he was offering was consumed. By which it seems clear that rock was a figure for the Body of Christ, for it is written: "They drank of that rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ". Which certainly refers not to His Godhead, but to His Flesh, which watered the hearts of the thirsting people with the perpetual stream of His Blood.
--St. Ambrose, Book 1: On the Holy Spirit, CCEL
This kind of scriptural interpretation, seeing symbols of Christ in Old Testament events, seems at times a little contrived. It is, however, comforting to see the essential unity of Scripture, Old and New Testament, and knowing that Jesus is with me, as He was with Gideon, whether or not I am aware of it. I am grateful for God's continuous presence!
In what ways do I recognize God's presence when I am in emotional pain?
222. Interpreting The Apocalypse
(This Calls For Shrewdness..)
"And there are seven kings: five have fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he is come, he will be for a short time." The time must be understood in which the written Apocalypse was published, since then reigned Caesar Domitian; but before him had been Titus his brother, and Vespasian, Otho, Vitellius, and Galba. These are the five who have fallen. One remains, under whom the Apocalypse was written--Domitian, to wit. "The other has not yet come", speaks of Nerva; "and when he is come, he will be for a short time," for he did not complete the period of two years.
--Victorinus, Commentary On the Apocalypse of the Blessed Job, CCEL
Victorinus, a third century Church father, knew more about how to interpret apocalyptic imagery from the Scriptures than anyone today. While there are references and allusions to the future in such literature, it was written primarily to encourage the generation in which it was written to face some persecution. Those to whom it was addressed understood the imagery much better than do we who live thousands of years later in a totally different culture. It might be as easy for someone born and living in central Africa in the 10th century to understand James Joyce=s Ulysses.
Do I have a tendency to over-interpret Scripture according to my own predilections rather than rely on the interpretation handed down by the Church?
223. Dying For The Truth
(I Shall Prove Myself Worthy...)
The sentence of judgement sayest that these men came to Japan from the Philipines, but I did not come from any other country I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ's example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.
--St. Paul Mikki, MartyrB1597, SOTD
2 Maccabees 6: 18-31
While I find the idea of martyrdom very unsettling, it raises an important question. Am I willing to give all for the Atruth@? Eleazar of Israel in the second century before Christ preferred to die than to pretend to do something which the Jewish law forbade. He felt it would be a terrible example to those around him who respected him for his wisdom and character. St. Paul Mikki did the same as a martyr in 16th century Japan. He died for no other reason than telling the truth about Christ. Did their deaths mean anything? More than two centuries later, British missionaries found many Christians secretly performing services taught by Paul Mikki and his companions who were martyred in 1597!
Am I willing to sacrifice everything for the truth?
224. A Standard For Sacrificial Giving
(My Worldly Wealth Is Rotting)
The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.
--St. Basil the Great, SOTD
The words of Sts. James and Basil always strike me hard. While I have given much time, talent and treasure to worthy causes over the years, I always keep an ample supply for myself and my future.
Is this the way God would want it? Am I meant to save for a future that may not be there? Does this reflect a lack of faith? Is promising to use ample amounts of my retirement money and time a legitimate substitute for not doing more now, in the present?
225. The Love and Generosity Of God
(May I Learn To Discern Good From Evil)
God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God's greatness.
--St. Gregory Nazianen, SOTD
King Solomon asked the Lord for the spiritual gifts of discernment and wisdom. Because of this correct placement of priorities, spiritual before temporal, the Lord also gave him the temporal things which he did not ask for such as wealth, long life and glory. I should ask God for big things which are worthy of His greatness and goodness and equal to my rank as a child of God. The greatest I can ask for is to be made a saint and to find joy in bringing God's mercy and love to others in this short span of time that I am in this body and on this planet.
Lord Jesus, will you make me a saint for your glory and my joy??
226. Preparing For Prayer
(What The Upright Desire Comes As A Present)
Prepare for prayer by living virtuously. Without virtue, no one can attain a peaceful mind. Proper prayer can be offered only if one is free of worrying about business, of gossip, of anger, of love of money. Whatever we have been thinking about before we pray will come into our minds while we pray. So, before we pray we must become the kind of people we want to be while we are praying. What we do not want to disrupt our prayer, we must keep out of our lives while we are not praying. Growing in virtue is an important preparation for prayer.
--Abba Isaac (Conference with John Cassian), Rules For Prayer
Proverbs 10: 24-25
What Abba Isaac says is true. When I try to meditate, the things of the world that I am attached to tend to destroy my peace of mind and my prayer. I must become the kind of person I want to be while I am praying through virtuous living and God=s Providence. After all, if I desire only God=s will, my desire will be fulfilled like a present from the Lord.
In what ways must I change in order to obtain peace?
227. We Pray To Know God, Not Give God Orders!
(If It Is The Lord's Will I Shall Still Be Alive)
a) Prayer begins with the proper mental preparation. we should not approach God "carelessly, sluggishly, and disdainful."
b) Pray three times daily.
c) Outline of Prayer:
-for benefits others receive from God
-for benefits we receive from God
-confession of sins
-for healing and deliverance form the habits that bring us to sin
Petitions for great and heavenly things (not the fleeting trivialities of life)
Doxology, praise to God through Christ in the Holy Spirit
--St. Origen (paraphrase), On Prayer, Rules For Prayer
While I have been praying a similar outline of prayer every morning for the last twelve years, there are a couple of areas that I need to concentrate on more. These include thanking God for the graces that others have received and praying for the deliverance of habits of mind and body that lead me into cycles of guilt and depression.
In what ways can I improve my method of prayer?
228. Prayer Rule of St. Benedict
(Lord, Teach Us To Pray...)
a) Pray eight times per day: 2 AM, 5 AM, 6 AM, 9 AM, Noon, 3 Pm, 5 PM, 7 PM
b) The use of the psalms as a basis of prayer relieves us of the burden of setting an agenda for prayer. We will find that almost everything we would ever want to include in our prayer is to be found somewhere in the Psalter
c) Prayer should be brief and pure unless the grace of God inspires us to pray longer.
d) When the community prays together, it should always be brief.
--St. Benedict (paraphrase), The Rule, Rules For Prayer
Brief and often. That is a summary of the method of prayer of St. Benedict. When taken to its limits it becomes prayer without ceasing or practicing the presence of God. Even the Lord=s Prayer (the Our Father), brief as it is in the Gospel of Matthew, is even briefer in the Gospel of Luke. Ultimately, prayer becomes a meditation with no words.
Do I use too many words in my prayers?
229. Cross Training
(May I Be Wise As A Fox And Innocent As A Dove)
Greetings in God, my most excellent sir, and venerable son Gregory, from Origen. A natural readiness of comprehension, as you well know, may, if practice be added, somewhat to the contingent end, if I may so call it, of that which any one wishes to practice. Thus, your natural good parts might make of you a finished Roman lawyer or a Greek philosopher, so to speak, of one of the schools in high reputation. But I am anxious that you should devote all the strength of your natural good parts to Christianity for your end; and in order to this, I wish to ask you to extract from the philosophy of the Greeks what may serve as a course of study or a preparation for Christianity, and from geometry and from astronomy what will serve to explain the sacred Scriptures, in order that all that the sons of the philosophers are wont to say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy, as fellow -helpers to philosophy, we may say about philosophy itself, in relation to Christianity.
--St. Origen, Letter to St. Gregory, CCEL
Jesus teaches that the children of the world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than the children of light. He also teaches that we need to learn to be as wise as foxes in dealing with them on spiritual matters. St. Origen advises St. Gregory to learn all that he can from philosophy and science and to formulate it to the need to teach Christianity to the educated Greeks. The implication is that truth is one and that the Book of the World is the main source of teaching.
In what ways can I make use of new, worldly knowledge to further explain Christianity to those around me?
230. A Case For Purgatory
(I Will Come To Terms With My Opponent)
All souls, therefore, are shut up within Hades, moreover, there are already experienced there punishments and consolations... In short, inasmuch as we understand "the prison" pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, and as we interpret "the utmost farthing' to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides. This point the Paraclete has also pressed home on our attention in most frequent admonitions, whenever any of us has admitted the force of His words from a knowledge of His promised spiritual disclosures.
--St. Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 58, CCEL
St. Tertullian indicates that he has received his interpretation of Jesus= parable from the Holy Spirit. It is evident that many other Church fathers have also received a similar interpretation which has then become Church dogma. A sign of the working of the Holy Spirit is mercy. The Lord allows the soul to continue to be purged after physical death. The prayers of the Communion of Saints also speeds up the purgation process. Praise God for His mercy and love!
Do I seek to interpret Scripture in a merciful manner?
231. A Father-Son Relationship
(Father, Do Not Put Us To The Test)
Let us, therefore, brethren beloved, pray as God our Teacher has taught us. It is a loving and friendly prayer to beseech God with His own word, to come up to His ear in the prayer of Christ. Let the Father acknowledge the words of His Son when we make our prayer, and let Him also who dwells within in our breast Himself dwell in our voice. And since we have Him as an Advocate with the Father for our sins, let us, when as sinners we petition on behalf of our sins, put forward the words of our Advocate. For since He says, that "whatever we shall ask the Father in His name, He will give us," how much more effectually do we obtain what we ask in Christ's name, if we ask for it in His own prayer!
--St. Augustine, On the Lord's Prayer, CCEL
Luke 11: 1-4
Lord Jesus, do not subject me to the test. For I am weak and You are strong. I am limited and you are infinite. I am flesh and blood and You are Spirit. I am tired of mental sufferingB even if I need it to grow into Your Image. I am weary of the purification process, as necessary as it might be. I seek Your peace and heart-rest. Be not far from me. Teach me to submit to Your will quickly so as not to create unnecessary pain. Help me to learn my lessons quickly. Please, be merciful to me during the final test as I try to show mercy to those around me. Thank You for Your love. Amen.
In what ways do I put my family members, co-workers, friends, etc. to the test?
232. The Reality Of Evil Spirits
(What Do You Want With Me Jesus?)
What shall we say about magic? Say, to be sure, what almost everyone says of it--that it is an imposture. But it is not we Christians only whose notice this system of imposture does not escape. We, it is true, have discovered, these spirits of evil, to be sure, not by a complicity with them, but by a certain knowledge that is hostile to them; nor is it by any procedure that is attractive to them, but by a power which subjugates them that we handle their wretched system --that manifold pest of the mind of man, that artificer of all error, that destroyer of our salvation and our soul at one swoop....For, as we have already suggested, there is hardly a human being who is unattended by a demon; and it is well known to many, that premature and violent deaths, which men ascribe to accidents, are in fact brought about by demons. This imposture of the evil spirit lying concealed in the persons of the dead, we are able, if I mistake not, to prove by actual facts, when in cases of exorcism the evil spirit,... after trying to circumvent the bystanders, is vanquished by the pressure of divine grace, and sorely against his will confesses all the truth... In all cases of a true resurrection, when the power of God recalls souls to their bodies, either by the agency of prophets, or of Christ, or of apostles, a complete presumption is afforded us, by the solid, palpable, and ascertained reality of the revived body, that its true form must be such as to compel one's belief of the fraudulence of every incorporeal apparition of dead persons.
--St. Tertullian, A Treatise On the Soul, Chapter 57, CCEL
Although modern psychiatry says much about mental illness and its manifestations, the story in Mark=s Gospel about the Gerasene demoniac clearly shows that there is a force of evil which is beyond the individual ego and will. I suspect that my ego, as diseased as it might become, could not be thrust into a herd of pigs who then rush to their deaths by drowning! Christianity has always taught that evil comes from the flesh, the world and the devil. While most evil can be attributed to the first two, not all of it can. It appears that the only one who benefits from a complete disbelief in evil spirits is Satan himself. While Jesus has conquered evil and His power is far beyond the power of evil, if I don=t believe in evil spirits, I will not claim the power needed for my protection and the protection of all beings.
What are my beliefs about the power of evil and its causes?
233. The Father's Will: Be Christ-Like
(I Will Repent And Turn To God)
Now that is the will of God which Christ both did and taught. Humility in conversation; steadfastness in faith; modesty on words; justice in deeds; mercifulness in works; discipline in morals; to be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one's heart; to love Him in that He is a Father; to fear Him in that He is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ, because He did not prefer anything to us; to adhere inseparably to His love; to stand by His cross bravely and faithfully; when there is any contest on behalf of His name and honor, to exhibit in discourse that constancy wherewith we make confession; in torture, that confidence wherewith we do battle; in death, that patience whereby we are crowned; -this is to desire to be fellow heirs with Christ; this is to do the commandment of God; this is to fulfil the will of the Father.
--St. Augustine, On the Lord's Prayer, CCEL
Acts 3: 11-26
In a nutshell, God wants me to repent (be willing to change) and to give up my evil ways by becoming more Christ-like. To become more Christ-like I must become more humble, steadfast, modest, just, merciful, disciplined, long-suffering, peaceful and loving--preferring nothing to Christ since He preferred nothing to me!
Am I willing to repent and have Christ remake me into His image? In what ways am I not yet ready to repent (change)?
234. A Time For Evil?
(There Is A Season For Everything)
This reflection has befallen me at this time concerning the shaking that is to take place at this time, and the host that has assembled itself for the sword. The times were disposed beforehand by God. The times of peace are fulfilled in the days of the good and just; and the times of many evils are fulfilled in the days of the evil and transgressors...Good has come to the people of God, and blessedness awaits that man through whom the good came. And evil is stirred up as regards the host that is gathered together by means of the evil and arrogant one who glories; and woe also is there reserved for hi through whom the evil is stirred up. Do not, my beloved, reproach the evil person who has inflicted evil upon many; because the times were beforehand disposed and the time of their accomplishment has arrived.
--Aphrahat, Church Father, The Demonstrations Of Aphrahat,CCEL
There is a time for love and a time for hate, a time for war and a time for peace. Even though the book of Ecclesiastes is incomplete in its spiritual perception, there appears to be much truth in it if one examines everyday existence. The only problem with perception, whether it be personal, clannish, national, or religious, is that there are always two sides to the same coin. One mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist. One mans evil empire is another mans holy nation. In the big scheme of things, I do not know what good will come from what I cal evil. The Jews in exile in Babylon saw profound evil. God saw the purifying of a people for its own good. I must trust the words of St. Paul: All things turn out for the good for those who love God.
What in my world do I call evil and why?
235. Attending To The Business Of Life
(I Will Seek God's Will In All I Do)
Accept the duties which come upon you quietly, and try to fulfil them methodically, one after another. If you attempt to do everything at once, or with confusion, you will only cumber yourself with your own exertions, and by dint of perplexing your mind you will probably by overwhelmed and accomplish nothing. In all your affairs lean solely on God's Providence, by means of which alone your plans can succeed. Meanwhile, on your part work on in quiet co-operation with Him, and then rest satisfied that if you have trusted entirely in Him you will always obtain such a measure of success as is most profitable for you, whether it seems so or not to your own individual judgement... When your ordinary work or business is not specially engrossing, let your heart be fixed more on God then on it, and if the work be such as to require your undivided attention, then pause from time to time and look to God..by looking up at the heavens rather than down upon the deeps ...So doing, God will work with you, in you, and for you, and your work will be blessed.
--St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Chapter 10, CCEL
ATrust in the Lord. Put no faith in your own perception. Acknowledge Him and He will see that your paths are smooth.@ I love St. Francis de Sales! He always says what I need to hear and he says it so simply and gently. I must accept my duties quietly and fulfill them methodically. I must work in cooperation with the Lord by leaning on His Providence. When my work is dull or in short supply, then let my heart be fixed more on God than on it. If the work requires my attention, practice the presence of God as often as possible. Doing so, God will work in, for, and with me and my work will prosper to the extent that God wills it.
How can I improve my attitude about work? How is God my supervisor? In what ways does God's work fill up the lacks and gaps in my job?
236. Jesus: The Rock Of Our Faith
(Jesus Is The Cornerstone Of My Faith)
Hear then, my beloved, and open the inward ears of thy heart unto me, and the spiritual perceptions of thy mind to that which I say unto thee. Faith is compounded of many things, and by many kinds is it brought to perfection. For it is like a building that is built up of many pieces of workmanship and so its edifice rises to the top. And know, my beloved, that in the foundations of the building stones are laid, and so resting upon stones the whole edifice rises until it is perfected. Thus also the true Stone, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the foundation of all our faith. And on Him, on this Stone faith is based. And resting on faith all the structure rises until it is completed. For it is the foundation that is the beginning of all the building. For when anyone is brought nigh unto faith, it is laid for him upon the Stone, that is our Lord Jesus Christ. And his building cannot be shaken by the waves, nor can it be injured by the winds. By the stormy blasts it does not fall because its structure is reared upon the rock of the true Stone.
--Aphrahat, Church Father, The Demonstrations Of Aphrahat, CCEL
Luke 20: 17-18
Jesus is the cornerstone of my faith. If this stone falls on me I will be crushed. If I fall on it, I will be broken. If I build my faith on my ego desires, the rock of Christ will crush it. If I start with Christ as the cornerstone of faith and then build a structure out of hot air and illusion, the structure will collapse and fall on the immovable rock of Christ. The implication is that my faith will be broken or crushed. It might feel like death as my ego and illusions are dashed to pieces, but I can still learn to build my foundation properly! Jesus doesn=t desire my death, He desires my happiness which comes from giving up my illusions and my ego and putting my faith on Jesus where it belongs.
Are my ego and beliefs illusions preparing me for a smashing fall? What does a fall feel like (depression, despair, discouragement)?
237. Candle Stick Or Bushel Basket?
(Everything Will Come To Light)
Ye are the light of the world. What view are we to take? That the expression "under a bushel measure" is so used that only the concealment of the candle is to be understood, as if He were saying, No one lights a candle anc conceals it? Or does the bushel measure also mean something, so that to place a candle under a bushel is this, to place the comforts of the body higher than the preaching of the truth, so that one does not preach the truth so long as he is afraid of suffering any annoyance in corporeal and temporal things?...Everyone, therefore, who obscures and covers up the light of good doctrine by means of temporal comforts, places his candle under a bushel measure. "But on a candlestick." Now it is placed on a candlestick by him who subordinates his body to the service of God, so that the preaching of the truth is the higher, and the serving of the body the lower; yet by means even of the service of the body the doctrine shines more conspicuously, inasmuch as it is insinuated into those who learn by means of bodily functions, i.e. by means of the voice and tongue, and other movements of the body in good works.
--St. Augustine, On the Sermon On the Mount, CCEL
One way of letting my light shine definitely does not feel like strength but like weakness and shame. When I am in pain over something work-related, I need to express it to my supervisor and do what needs to be done to resolve the situation in a manner that doesn't blame others but takes responsibility for my own actions and mental health. By doing so, even if very discrete, a situation may change for the better for others as well as myself. Self-care is a legitimate way of letting my light shine and not hiding it under a bushel basket.
In what ways can realistic self-care and responsibility for myself help influence my environment for the better?
238. Owe Nothing To Anyone
(Give To God What Is God's)
Be ye subject to all royal power and dominion in things which are pleasing to God, as to the ministers of God, and the punishes of the ungodly. Render al the fear that is due to them, all offerings, all customs, all honor, gifts, and taxes. For this is God=s command, that you owe nothing to anyone but the pledge of love, which God has commanded by Christ.
--BConstitutions of the Holy Apostles (3rd Cent), Book 4, CCEL
Jesus paid, and encouraged others to pay, the taxes and other service due to civil and religious institutions. In the case of religious institutions, He believed that citizens of the Kingdom should be exempt; but to avoid being the downfall of others, He paid it. We should owe nothing but the pledge of love which was certainly the main concern of Jesus.
Will the example of my behavior in any way hurt others? Do I fulfill my civic (taxes, voting, jury duty) and religious (time, talent, treasure) duties?
239. Christian Duty Toward Orphans
(The Lord Is Father To The Fatherless)
When any Christian becomes an orphan...it is good that some one of the brethren who is without a child, should take the young man, and esteem him in the place of a son, and he that has a son about the same age, and that is marriageable, should marry the maid to him: for they which do so perform a great work, and become, fathers of the orphans, and shall receive the rewards of this charity from the Lord God. But if any one that walks in the way of man-pleasing is rich, and therefore is ashamed of orphans, the Father of orphans and Judge of widows will make provision for the orphans, but himself shall have such an heir as will spend what he has spared...
--BConstitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 4, CCEL
According to both Old and New Testaments, God has a special place near His heart for orphans and widows. While it may not be possible to adopt all orphans, Judeo-Christian morality requires that we do something to help. I have been a Big Brother several times, volunteered time to a protected home for children in transition and have befriended children whose parents were divorced. In all cases, it is a two-way street. I get back love, joy, an ability to learn how to play and healing from my own scares from youth.
In what ways can I be a father, brother or friend to needy children in my community?
240. The Allure Of Evil
(I Will Live In A Godly Manner)
Thou shall not be a wanderer and gadder abroad, rambling about the streets, without just cause, to spy out such as live wickedly. But by minding thy own trade and employment, endeavor to do what is acceptable to God. And keeping in mind the oracles of Christ, meditate in the same continually....Nay, although thou beest rich, and so dost not want a trade for thy maintenance, be not one that gads about, and walks abroad at random; but either go to some that are believers, and of the same religion, and confer and discourse with them about the lively oracles of Go.
-Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 1, CCEL
1 Theselonians 4: 1-12
AAspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs and to work with your own hands...that you may conduct yourselves properly towards outsiders.@ I must always remember that my example may be the main message from God that someone may receive today. In addition, I am definitely not above temptation to sin so why do I want to search out temptation?
In what ways does my entertainment consist of being a voyeur to how the ungodly live? What movies, TV shows, books, and music entice me?
241. A Visit By The Guardian Angel
(God Commands The Angels To Guard Me)
After I Had been praying at home, and had sat down on my couch, there entered a man of glorious aspect, dressed like a shepherd, with a white goat's skin, a wallet on his shoulders, and a rod in his hand, and saluted me. I returned his salutation. And straightway he sat down besides me, and said to me, "I have been sent by a most venerable angel to dwell with you the remaining days of your life." And I thought that he had come to tempt me, and I said to him, "Who are you? For I know him to whom I have been entrusted." He said to me, "Do you not know me?" "No," said I. "I", said he, "the shepherd to whom you have been entrusted." And while he yet spake, his figure was changed; and then I knew that it was he to whom I had been entrusted. And straightway I became confused, and fear took hold of me, and I was overpowered with deep sorrow that I had answered him so wickedly and foolishly. But he answered, and said to me, "Do not be confounded, but receive strength from the commandments which I am going to give you. For I have been sent...to show you again all the things which you saw before, especially those of them which are useful to you..." All these words did the shepherd, even the angel of repentance, command me to write.
--Pastor of Hermas, 2ond century, Vision Five, CCEL
I have not said the guardian angel prayer since I was a child but I really do believe that the grace of God protects me in ways that are otherwise difficult to explain. As a hiker and camper, there were times when I could have been seriously hurt if not for a felt force pushing me or turning me in such a way as to prevent an accident. I should spend more prayer time thanking God and His angel for their protection.
In what mysterious ways have I felt the grace of God protecting me?
242. Gender Issues In Ministering
(I Will Be Chaste Before God)
Our Lord Himself was constantly with His twelve disciples when He had come forth to the world. And not only so; but also, when He was sending them out, He sent them out two and two together, men with men; but women were not sent with them, and neither in the highway nor in the house did they associate with women or with maidens: and thus they pleased God in everything. Also when our Lord Jesus Christ Himself was talking with the woman of Samaria by the well alone, "His disciples came" and found Him talking with her, "and wondered that Jesus was talking with a woman." Is He not a rule, such as may not be set aside, an example, and a pattern to all the tribes of men? And not only so; but also, when our Lord was risen from the place of the dead, and Mary came to the place of sepulture, she ran and fell at the feet of our Lord and worshiped Him, and would have taken hold of Him. But He said to her: "Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father." Is it not, then, matter for astonishment, that , while our Lord did not allow Mary, the blessed woman, to touch His feet, yet thou livest with them, and are waited on by women and maidens, and sleepest where they sleep, and women was thy feet for thee, and anoint thee? ...To Jesus Christ our Lord women ministered of their substance: but they did not live with Him; but chastely, and holily, and unblameably they behaved before the Lord, and finished their course, and received the crown in our Lord God Almighty.
--St. Clement of Rome, Second Epistle, Chapter 15, CCEL
1 Kings 11: 1-3
King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines-- and they turned his heart from the Lord!! Somehow this doesn=t sound surprising (I wonder when he had time to rule)! Like today, many women were attracted to powerful men, and the men, being too human, find the temptation irresistible. Jesus was fully human and thus experienced this temptation but never acted on it. For most of us though, the advice of St. Clement, though extreme, is sensible: Do not put yourself in temptations path.
How do I manage my relationships with the opposite sex so as to live chastely?
243. Tasting Reality
(My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?)
"The Kingdom of God is within you," says the Lord. Turn, then, to God with all your heart. Forsake this wretched world and your soul shall find rest. Learn to despise external things, to devote yourself to those that are within, and you will see the kingdom of God come unto you, that kingdom which is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, gifts not given to the impious.... If you do not know how to meditate on heavenly things, direct your thoughts to Christ's passion and willingly behold His sacred wounds. If you turn devoutly to the wounds and precious stigmata of Christ, you will find great comfort in suffering... A man who is a lover of Jesus and of truth, a truly interior man who is free from uncontrolled affections, can turn to God at will and rise above himself to enjoy spiritual peace. He who tastes life as it really is , not as men say or think it is, is indeed wise with the wisdom of God rather than of men.
--Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, CCEL
Mark 15: 22-37
I rarely think of the sufferings of Jesus as much as during Lent. It is sometimes hard to imagine God suffering and dying. But the Gospels show clearly the reality of the crucifixion. In addition, by one estimate 325 people have received the stigmata of Jesus since the time of St. Francis of Assisi. These are miraculous appearances of the wounds of Christ on hands, feet and side with real blood oozing from them.
Do I accept the reality that Jesus suffered and died for the love of me?
244. Am I Greedy?
(I Will Not Make Money A God)
It is the Christian's privilege to be rich in material things, and poor in attachment to them, thereby having the use of riches in this world and the merit of poverty in the next... No one will ever own themselves to be avaricious--every one denies this contemptible vice--men excuse themselves on the plea of providing for their children, or plead the duty of prudent forethought:--they never have too much, there is always some good reason for accumulating more; and even the most avaricious of men not only do not own to being such, but sincerely believe that they are not; and because avarice is as a strong fever which is all the less felt as ti rages most fiercely.
--St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, CCEL
When I read about what St. Francis de Salle says about avarice, I wince. It definitely strikes me as true. It seems like no amount of money is too much either for current wants/needs or certainly for perceived future needs. It is not only money, however, that I am talking about. It seems that once I own something (micro-wave oven, telephone answering machine, VCR, etc.), I wonder how I ever managed to live without it! But the truth of the matter is that none of these things satisfy me or give me security. Isaiah asks me why I spend my money and energy on what fails to satisfy when all of the important things that do satisfy are provided by God for the asking.
Has money/security become a god to me at the expense of the true God?
245. Is It Possible To Become An Image Of Christ?
(The Just Are Never Abandoned)
The patient and humble endurance of the cross--whatever nature it may be--is the highest work we have to do. Oh, how far I am at 84 years of age from being an image of Jesus in his sacred life on earth.
--St. Katharine Drexel, SOTD
The words of St. Katharine make me ponder. A great saint in old age still feels incredibly far from being an image of Christ! And I, in my hubris and mid-life, sometimes feel that I am so Christ-like! A sign of spiritual growth in a saint is a lack of pride and the nearer one gets to Christ, the finer the imperfections that will be noticed. Ultimately, one can only approach being Christ-like in this life but never achieve it.
How Christ-like do I think I am (on a scale of 1-10)? How Christ-like am I really? (Ask your best friend and your worst enemy.)
(Faith Is Assurance)
It is not only among us, who are marked with the name of Christ, that the dignity of faith is great; all the business of the world, even of those outside the Church, is accomplished by faith. By faith, marriage laws join in union persons who were strangers to one another. By faith, agriculture is sustained; for a man does not endure the toil involved unleash believes he will reap a harvest. By faith, seafaring men, entrusting themselves to a tiny wooden craft, exchange the solid element of the land for unstable motion of the waves. Not only among us does this hold true but also, as I have said, among those outside the fold. For though they do not accept the Scriptures but advance certain doctrines of their own, yet even these they receive on faith.
--St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis V, SOTD
I must be very careful about where I place my faith. There are cases where one who believed that a curse was placed on them actually died of fright to fulfill the curse! Where I place my faith and how/what I think probably have more of an influence on my life than any exterior event.
Where do I place my faith? Is it really worthy of my faith?
247. The Inner Teacher
(I Will Be With Them In Distress)
If I glance at a book, no matter how good and moving it is, my heart at once contracts and I read without understanding or, if I understand, I cannot meditate on it. Whin I'm in this state, the Bible and The Imitation of Christ come to my rescue. In them I find hidden manna, a pure and substantial food. But above all, the Gospels help me in my prayers. They are always showing me new ways of looking at things and I am always finding hidden and mysterious meanings in them. I understand, and by experience, I know that the Kingdom of God is within us. Jesus has no need of books or doctors of the Church to guide souls. He, the Doctor of doctors, can teach without words. I have never heard him speak, but I know that he is within me. He guides and instructs me every moment of the day. Just when I need it, a new light shines on my problems. This happens not so much during my hours of prayer as when I'm busy with my daily work.
--St. Therese of Lisieux, The Autobiography of a Soul, LF
Jesus teaches me not to worry about what to say when giving testimony to Him because the Spirit of the Father will give me the words to say at that moment. St. Therese says: "He guides and instructs me every moment of the day. Just when I need it, a new light shines on my problems." I must always remember that where the soul is there is God, right at the center of my being. I need only stop the chatter and clatter of life and listen to the soundless voice for inspiration and guidance.
How do I feel about the fact that God is at the center of every soul?
248. Attaining God
(I Will Love God With My Whole Heart, Soul, Strength)
The price of your faithfulness is your God. God is what you will get, the One who is preparing himself as the reward for true worshipers. Just cast your minds, dearly beloved, over the whole of creation, heaven, earth, sea, everything in heaven, everything on earth, everything in the sea,. How beautiful they are, how wonderful, how harmoniously arranged! Do these things move you at all? Of course they do. Why? Because they are beautiful. So what about the One who made them? You would be absolutely stunned if you could see the beauty of the angels. So what about the Creator of the angels? That One is the reward of your faith and your fidelity...Do not expect from the Lord an earthly reward for our good lives. Let us set our sights on the things that are promised to us. Let us place our hearts where they can=t go rotten with worldly anxieties. These things which so preoccupy people all pass away, these things all fly off, nothing but a mist is human life on earth.
--St. Augustine, Sermons, LF
The price of my faithfulness is God. He is what I will get. But to get Him I must, as Jesus says, love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. So much so that the things of this life have no attachment to me. The only attachment I must have is to the love of God which I must give freely to those around me.
Is God the most important thing in my life? What things in my life am I too attached to?
249. Spiritual Disputes- Part 1
(I Will Oppose Error)
As for Origen, whose writings he has translated into our language, I have neither formerly known, nor now do I seek to know either who he was or what expression he may have given to his thought. But as to the feeling left by this mater on my own mind I should to be glad to speak to your holiness for a moment. The impression which I have received is this,--and it has been brought out clearly by the reading of parts of Origen's works bu the people of our City, and by the sort of mist of blindness which it threw over them,-that his object was to disintegrate our faith, which is that of the Apostles, and has been confirmed by the traditions of the fathers, by leading us into tortuous paths.
--Anastasius, Letter to John (Bishop of Jerusalem), CCEL
Galatians 2: 11-14
One Church father accuses another of despicable motives! It even happened among the Apostles when St. Paul accused St. Peter in public of hypocrisy. As a follower of Christ, I may very well disagree with another's point of view on a matter of faith. However, I must be very careful if I am to judge someone's motives. If I judge someone's motives it will almost certainly be a negative judgement.
What are my motives for judging the sincerity of the beliefs of others?
250. Spiritual Disputes- Part 2
(I Will Not Distort Scripture)
I am next informed that some stir has been made on the question of the nature of the soul. Whether complaints on a matter of this kind ought to be entertained instead of being put aside, you must yourself decide. If, however, you desire to know my opinion on the subject, I will state it frankly. I have read a great many writers on this question, and I find that they express divers opinions...For myself, I declare in the presence of God that, after reading each of these opinions, I am up to the present moment unable to hold any of them as certain and absolute; the determination of the truth in this question I leave to God and to any to whom it shall please Him to reveal it.
--Rufinus, Letter to Anastasius, Bishop of Rome, CCEL
There are many places in Scripture where different readings or interpretations of a passage are plausible. St. Peter says as much when he indicates that some passages of the writings of St. Paul are difficult to understand. In many cases how one interprets a passage is not critical to the faith although in some cases it is (for example, how do you interpret Jesus' commission to Peter?). It is probably best to use an interpretation endorsed by the Church through the early Church fathers. This will hopefully be the most living interpretation. Otherwise, I may choose an interpretation that is more self-serving than accurate.
Do I accept the teachings of the Church in places where Scripture is unclear?
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