Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jerome: "The See of Peter"

“A victim I implore the priest for salvation, a sheep the shepherd for protection. Away with jealousy of the Roman preeminence, away with ambition! I speak to the successor of the fisherman and to the disciple of the cross. I follow no one as chief save Christ but I am joined in communion with your blessedness, that is, with the See of Peter. Upon that rock I know the Church is built.”

~St. Jerome: “Letters,” 15. (To Pope Damasus)

St. Jerome in his Study, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Fresco, 1480; Ognissanti, Florence.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cyprian: "One altar and the one priesthood"

“THERE is one God, and Christ is one, and there is one Church, and one chair founded upon Peter by the word of the Lord. Another altar cannot be constituted nor a new priesthood be made, except the one altar and the one priesthood.”

~St. Cyprian of Carthage: “Letters,” 39, 5. (c. 200 – Sept. 14, 258)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Augustine: Of the universal peace

(Of the Universal Peace Which the Law of Nature Preserves Through All Disturbances, and by Which Every One Reaches His Desert in a Way Regulated by the Just Judge.)

"THE PEACE of the body then consists in the duly proportioned arrangement of its parts. The peace of the irrational soul is the harmonious repose of the appetites, and that of the rational soul the harmony of knowledge and action. The peace of body and soul is the well-ordered and harmonious life and health of the living creature. Peace between man and God is the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Peace between man and man is well-ordered concord. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God. The peace of all things is the tranquillity of order. Order is the distribution which allots things equal and unequal, each to its own place. And hence, though the miserable, in so far as they are such, do certainly not enjoy peace, but are severed from that tranquillity of order in which there is no disturbance, nevertheless, inasmuch as they are deservedly and justly miserable, they are by their very misery connected with order. They are not, indeed, conjoined with the blessed, but they are disjoined from them by the law of order. And though they are disquieted, their circumstances are notwithstanding adjusted to them, and consequently they have some tranquillity of order, and therefore some peace. But they are wretched because, although not wholly miserable, they are not in that place where any mixture of misery is impossible. They would, however, be more wretched if they had not that peace which arises from being in harmony with the natural order of things. When they suffer, their peace is in so far disturbed; but their peace continues in so far as they do not suffer, and in so far as their nature continues to exist. As, then, there may be life without pain, while there cannot be pain without some kind of life, so there may be peace without war, but there cannot be war without some kind of peace, because war supposes the existence of some natures to wage it, and these natures cannot exist without peace of one kind or other.

"And therefore there is a nature in which evil does not or even cannot exist; but there cannot be a nature in which there is no good. Hence not even the nature of the devil himself is evil, in so far as it is nature, but it was made evil by being perverted. Thus he did not abide in the truth, John 8:44 but could not escape the judgment of the Truth; he did not abide in the tranquillity of order, but did not therefore escape the power of the Ordainer. The good imparted by God to his nature did not screen him from the justice of God by which order was preserved in his punishment; neither did God punish the good which He had created, but the evil which the devil had committed. God did not take back all He had imparted to his nature, but something He took and something He left, that there might remain enough to be sensible of the loss of what was taken. And this very sensibility to pain is evidence of the good which has been taken away and the good which has been left. For, were nothing good left, there could be no pain on account of the good which had been lost. For he who sins is still worse if he rejoices in his loss of righteousness. But he who is in pain, if he derives no benefit from it, mourns at least the loss of health. And as righteousness and health are both good things, and as the loss of any good thing is matter of grief, not of joy—if, at least, there is no compensation, as spiritual righteousness may compensate for the loss of bodily health—certainly it is more suitable for  a wicked man to grieve in punishment than to rejoice in his fault. As, then, the joy of a sinner who has abandoned what is good is evidence of a bad will, so his grief for the good he has lost when he is punished is evidence of a good nature. For he who laments the peace his nature has lost is stirred to do so by some relics of peace which make his nature friendly to itself. And it is very just that in the final punishment the wicked and godless should in anguish bewail the loss of the natural advantages they enjoyed, and should perceive that they were most justly taken from them by that God whose benign liberality they had despised. God, then, the most wise Creator and most just Ordainer of all natures, who placed the human race upon earth as its greatest ornament, imparted to men some good things adapted to this life, to wit, temporal peace, such as we can enjoy in this life from health and safety and human fellowship, and all things needful for the preservation and recovery of this peace, such as the objects which are accommodated to our outward senses, light, night, the air, and waters suitable for us, and everything the body requires to sustain, shelter, heal, or beautify it:  and all under this most equitable condition, that every man who made a good use of these advantages suited to the peace of this mortal condition, should receive ampler and better blessings, namely, the peace of immortality, accompanied by glory and honor in an endless life made fit for the enjoyment of God and of one another in God; but that he who used the present blessings badly should both lose them and should not receive the others."

~St. Augustine of Hippo: The City of God, 19, 13.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Leo I: "The Cross of Christ"

“THE cross of Christ, which is granted for the salvation of mortals, is both a mystery and an example: a mystery by which the power of God is shown forth; an example, by which man’s devotion is aroused.”

~Pope St. Leo ISermons, 72, 1.

Altar Cross, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Gilt bronze corpus on bronze cross,
1657-61; Treasury of San Pietro, Vatican.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gregory I: Christ, the Good Shepherd

I AM the good shepherd. I know my own - by which I mean, I love them - and my own know me. In plain words: those who love me are willing to follow me, for anyone who does not love the truth has not yet come to know it.

My dear brethren, you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo. Turn now to consider how these words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action. John the evangelist is my authority for this statement. He tells us that anyone who claims to know God without keeping his commandments is a liar.

Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: As the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. Clearly he means that laying down his life for his sheep gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of him. In other words, by the love with which he dies for his sheep he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

Again he says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; they follow me, and I give them eternal life. Shortly before this he had declared: If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved; he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture. He will enter into a life of faith; from faith he will go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going.

~St. Gregory the Great: Homily, 14, 3-6.


Christ the Good Shepherd, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
Oil on canvas, c. 1660; Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Pius X: On Gregory the Great

MARCH 12, 1904

To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Ordinaries in

Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Venerable Brethren, Health and the Apostolic Benediction.

Joyful indeed comes the remembrance, Venerable Brethren, of that great and incomparable man, the Pontiff Gregory, first of the name, whose centenary solemnity, at the close of the thirteenth century since his death, we are about to celebrate. By that God who killeth and maketh alive, who humbleth and exalteth, it was ordained, not, We think, without a special providence, that amid the almost innumerable cares of Our Apostolic ministry, amid all the anxieties which the government of the Universal Church imposes upon Us, amid our pressing solicitude to satisfy as best We may your claims, Venerable Brethren, who have been called to a share in Our Apostolate, and those of all the faithful entrusted to Our care, Our gaze at the beginning of Our Pontificate should be turned at once towards that most holy and illustrious Predecessor of Ours, the honor of the Church and its glory. For Our heart is filled with great confidence in his most powerful intercession with God, and strengthened by the memory of the sublime maxims he inculcated in his lofty office and of the virtues devoutly practiced by him. And since by the force of the former and the fruitfulness of the latter he has left on God's Church a mark so vast, so deep, so lasting, that his contemporaries and posterity have justly given him the name of Great, and to-day, after all these centuries, the eulogy of his epitaph is still verified: "He lives eternal in every place by his innumerable good works" (Apud Joann. Diac., Vita Greg. iv. 68) it will surely be given, with the help of Divine grace, to all followers of his wonderful example, to fulfill the duties of their own offices, as far as human weakness permits.

2. There is but little need to repeat here what public documents have made known to all. When Gregory assumed the Supreme Pontificate the disorder in public affairs had reached its climax; the ancient civilization had all but disappeared and barbarism was spreading throughout the dominions of the crumbling Roman Empire. Italy, abandoned by the Emperors of Byzantium, had been left a prey of the still unsettled Lombards who roamed up and down the whole country laying waste everywhere with fire and sword and bringing desolation and death in their train. This very city, threatened from without by its enemies, tried from within by the scourges of pestilence, floods and famine, was reduced to such a miserable plight that it had become a problem how to keep the breath of life in the citizens and in the immense multitudes who flocked hither for refuge. Here were to be found men and women of all conditions, bishops and priests carrying the sacred vessels they had saved from plunder, monks and innocent spouses of Christ who had sought safety in flight from the swords of the enemy or from the brutal insults of abandoned men. Gregory himself calls the Church of Rome: "An old ship woefully shattered; for the waters are entering on all sides, and the joints, buffeted by the daily stress of the storm, are growing rotten and herald shipwreck" (Registrum i., 4 ad Joannem episcop. Constantino.). But the pilot raised up by God had a strong hand, and when placed at the helm succeeding not only in making the port in despite of the raging seas, but in saving the vessel from future storms.

3. Truly wonderful is the work he was able to effect during his reign of little more than thirteen years. He was the restorer of Christian life in its entirety, stimulating the devotion of the faithful, the observance of the monks, the discipline of the clergy, the pastoral solicitude of the bishops. Most prudent father of the family of Christ that he was (Joann. Diac-, Vita Greg. ii. 51), he preserved and increased the patrimony of the Church, and liberally succored the impoverished people, Christian society, and individual churches, according to the necessities of each. Becoming truly God's Consul (Epitaph), he pushed his fruitful activity far beyond the walls of Rome, and entirely for the advantage of civilized society. He opposed energetically the unjust claims of the Byzantine Emperors; he checked the audacity and curbed the shameless avarice of the exarchs and the imperial administrators, and stood up in public as the defender of social justice. He tamed the ferocity of the Lombards, and did not hesitate to meet Agulfus at the gates of Rome in order to prevail upon him to raise the siege of the city, just as the Pontiff Leo the Great did in the case of Attila; nor did he desist in his prayers, in his gentle persuasion, in his skillful negotiation, until he saw that dreaded people settle down and adopt a more regular government; until he knew that they were won to the Catholic faith, mainly through the influence of the pious Queen Theodolinda, his daughter in Christ. Hence Gregory may justly be called the savior and liberator of Italy -- his own land, as he tenderly calls her.

4. Through his incessant pastoral care the embers of heresy in Italy and Africa die out, ecclesiastical life in the Gauls is re-organized, the Visigoths of the Spains are welded together in the conversion which has already been begun among them, and the renowned English nation, which, "situated in a corner of the world, while it had hitherto remained obstinate in the worship of wood and stone" (Reg. viii. 29, 30, ad Eulog. Episcop. Alexandr.), now also receives the true faith of Christ. Gregory's heart overflowed with joy at the news of this precious conquest, for his is the heart of a father embracing his most beloved son, and in attributing all the merit of it to Jesus the Redeemer, "for whose love," as he himself writes, "we are seeking our unknown brethren in Britain, and through whose grace we find unknown ones we were seeking" (Reg. xi. 36 (28), ad Augustin. Anglorum Episcopum). And so grateful to the Holy Pontiff was the English nation that they called him always: our Master, our Doctor, our Apostle, our Pope, our Gregory, and considered itself as the seal of his apostolate. In fine, so salutary and so efficacious was his action that the memory of the works wrought by him became deeply impressed on the minds of posterity, especially during the Middle Ages, which breathed, so to say, the atmosphere infused by him, fed on his words, conformed its life and manners according to the example inculcated by him, with the result that Christian social civilization was happily introduced into the world in opposition to the Roman civilization of the preceding centuries, which now passed away for ever.

5. This is the change of the right hand of the Most High! And well may it be said that in the mind of Gregory the hand of God alone was operative in these great events. What he wrote to the most holy monk Augustine about this same conversion of the English may be equally applied to all the rest of his apostolic action: "Whose work is this but His who said: My Father worketh till now, and I work? (John v. 17). To show the world that He wished to convert it, not by the wisdom of men, but by His own power, He chose unlettered men to be preachers to the world; and the same He has now done, vouchsafing to accomplish through weak men great things among the nation of the Angles" (Reg. xi. 36 (28)). We, indeed, may discern much that the holy Pontiff's profound humility hid from his own sight: his knowledge of affairs, his talent for bringing his undertakings to a successful issue, the wonderful prudence shown in all his provisions, his assiduous vigilance, his persevering solicitude. But it is, nevertheless, true that he never put himself forward as one invested with the might and power of the great ones of the earth, for instead of using the exalted prestige of the Pontifical dignity, he preferred to call himself the Servant of the Servants of God, a title which he was the first to adopt. It was not merely by profane science or the "persuasive words of human wisdom (I Cor. ii. 4) that he traced out his career, or by the devices of civil politics, or by systems of social renovation, skillfully studied, prepared and put in execution; nor yet, and this is very striking, by setting before himself a vast program of apostolic action to be gradually realized; for we know that, on the contrary, his mind was full of the idea of the approaching end of the world which was to have left him but little time for great exploits. Very delicate and fragile of body though he was, and constantly afflicted by infirmities which several times brought him to the point of death, he yet possessed an incredible energy of soul which was for ever receiving fresh vigor from his lively faith in the infallible words of Christ, and in His Divine promises. Then again, he counted with unlimited confidence on the supernatural force given by God to the Church for the successful accomplishment of her divine mission in the world. The constant aim of his life, as shown in all his words and works, was, therefore, this: to preserve in himself, and to stimulate in others this same lively faith and confidence, doing all the good possible at the moment in expectation of the Divine judgment.

6. And this produced in him the fixed resolve to adopt for the salvation of all the abundant wealth of supernatural means given by God to His Church, such as the infallible teaching of revealed truth, and the preaching of the same teaching in the whole world, and the sacraments which have the power of infusing or increasing the life of the soul, and the grace of prayer in the name of Christ which assures heavenly protection

7. These memories, Venerable Brethren, are a source of unspeakable comfort to Us. When We glance around from the walls of the Vatican We find that like Gregory, and perhaps with even more reason than he, We have grounds for fear, with so many storms gathering on every side, with so many hostile forces massed and advancing against Us, and at the same time so utterly deprived are We of all human aid to ward off the former and to help us to meet the shock of the latter. But when We consider the place on which Our feet rest and on which this Pontifical See is rooted, We feel Ourself perfectly safe on the rock of Holy Church. "For who does not know," wrote St. Gregory to the Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria, "that Holy Church stands on the solidity of the Prince of the Apostles, who got his name from his firmness, for he was called Peter from the word rock? (Registr. vii. 37 (40)). Supernatural force has never during the flight of ages been found wanting in the Church, nor have Christ's promises failed; these remain today just as they were when they brought consolation to Gregory's heart-nay, they are endowed with even greater force for Us after having stood the test of centuries and so many changes of circumstances and events.

8. Kingdoms and empires have passed away; peoples once renowned for their history and civilization have disappeared; time and again the nations, as though overwhelmed by the weight of years, have fallen asunder; while the Church, indefectible in her essence, united by ties indissoluble with her heavenly Spouse, is here to-day radiant with eternal youth, strong with the same primitive vigor with which she came from the Heart of Christ dead upon the Cross. Men powerful in the world have risen up against her. They have disappeared, and she remains. Philosophical systems without number, of every form and every kind, rose up against her, arrogantly vaunting themselves her masters, as though they had at last destroyed the doctrine of the Church, refuted the dogmas of her faith, proved the absurdity of her teachings. But those systems, one after another, have passed into books of history, forgotten, bankrupt; while from the Rock of Peter the light of truth shines forth as brilliantly as on the day when Jesus first kindled it on His appearance in the world, and fed it with His Divine words: "Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass" (Matth. xxiv. 35).
9. We, strengthened by this faith, firmly established on this rock, realizing to the full all the heavy duties that the Primacy imposes on Us-but also all the vigor that comes to Us from the Divine Will -- calmly wait until all the voices be scattered to the winds that now shout around Us proclaiming that the Church has gone beyond her time, that her doctrines are passed away for ever, that the day is at hand when she will be condemned either to accept the tenets of a godless science and civilization or to disappear from human society. Yet at the same time We cannot but remind all, great and small, as Pope St. Gregory did, of the absolute necessity of having recourse to this Church in order to have eternal salvation, to follow the right road of reason, to feed on the truth, to obtain peace and even happiness in this life.

10. Wherefore, to use the words of the Holy Pontiff, "Turn your steps towards this unshaken rock upon which Our Savior founded the Universal Church, so that the path of him who is sincere of heart may not be lost in devious windings" (Reg. viii. 24, ad Sabin. episcop.). It is only the charity of the Church and union with her which "unite what is divided, restore order where there is confusion, temper inequalities, fill up imperfections" (Registr. v. 58 (53) ad Virgil. episcop.). It is to be firmly held "that nobody can rightly govern in earthly things, unless he knows how to treat divine things, and that the peace of States depends upon the universal peace of the Church" (Registr. v. 37 (20) ad Mauric. Aug.). Hence the absolute necessity of a perfect harmony between the two powers, ecclesiastical and civil, each being by the will of God called to sustain the other. For, "power over all men was given from heaven that those who aspire to do well may be aided, that the path to heaven may be made broader, and that earthly sovereignty may be handmaid to heavenly sovereignty" (Registr. iii. 61(65) ad Mauric. Aug.).

11. From these principles was derived that unconquerable firmness shown by Gregory, which We, with the help of God, will study to imitate, resolved to defend at all costs the rights and prerogatives of which the Roman Pontificate is the guardian and the defender before God and man. But it was the same Gregory who wrote to the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch: When the rights of the Church are in question, "we must show, even by our death, that we do not, through love of some private interest of our own want anything contrary to the common weal" (Registr. v. 41). And to the Emperor Maurice: "He who through vainglory raises his neck against God Almighty and against the statutes of the Fathers, shall not bend my neck to him, not even with the cutting of swords, as I trust in the same God Almighty" (Registr. v. 37). And to the Deacon Sabinian: "I am ready to die rather than permit that the Church degenerate in my days. And you know well my ways, that I am long-suffering; but when I decide not to bear any longer, I face danger with a joyful soul" (Registr. v. 6 (iv. 47)).

12. Such were the fundamental maxims which the Pontiff Gregory constantly proclaimed, and men listened to him. And thus, with Princes and peoples docile to his words, the world regained true salvation, and put itself on the path of a civilization which was noble and fruitful in blessings in proportion as it was founded on the incontrovertible dictates of reason and moral discipline, and derived its force from truth divinely revealed and from the maxims of the Gospel.

13. But in those days the people, albeit rude, ignorant, and still destitute of all civilization, were eager for life, and this no one could give except Christ, through the Church, who "came that they may have life and have it more abundantly" (John x. 10). And truly they had life and had it abundantly, precisely because as no other life but the supernatural life of souls could come from the Church, this includes in itself and gives additional vigor to all the energies of life, even in the natural order. "If the root be holy so are the branches," said St. Paul to the Gentiles, "and thou being a wild olive art ingrafted in them, and art made partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive-tree (Rom. xi. 16, 17).

14. To-day, on the contrary, although the world enjoys a light so full of Christian civilization and in this respect cannot for a moment be compared with the times of Gregory, yet it seems as though it were tired of that life, which has been and still is the chief and often the sole fount of so many blessings -- and not merely past but present blessings. And not only does this useless branch cut itself off from the trunk, as happened in other times when heresies and schisms arose, but it first lays the ax to the root of the tree, which is the Church, and strives to dry up its vital sap that its ruin may be the surer and that it may never blossom again.

15. In this error, which is the chief one of our time and the source whence all the others spring, lies the origin of so much loss of eternal salvation among men, and of all the ruins affecting religion which we continue to lament, and of the many others which we still fear will happen if the evil be not remedied. For all supernatural order is denied, and, as a consequence, the divine intervention in the order of creation and in the government of the world and in the possibility of miracles; and when all these are taken away the foundations of the Christian religion are necessarily shaken. Men even go so far as to impugn the arguments for the existence of God, denying with unparalleled audacity and against the first principles of reason the invincible force of the proof which from the effects ascends to their cause, that is God, and to the notion of His infinite attributes. "For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made: his eternal power also and divinity" (Rom. i. 20). The way is thus opened to other most grievous errors, equally repugnant to right reason and pernicious to good morals.

16. The gratuitous negation of the supernatural principles, proper to knowledge falsely so called, has actually become the postulate of a historical criticism equally false. Everything that relates in any way to the supernatural order, either as belonging to it, constituting it, presupposing it, or merely finding its explanation in it, is erased without further investigation from the pages of history. Such are the Divinity of Jesus Christ, His Incarnation through the operation of the Holy Ghost, His Resurrection by His own power, and in general all the dogmas of our faith. Science once placed on this false road, there is no law of criticism to hold it back; and it cancels at its own caprice from the holy books everything that does not suit it or that it believes to be opposed to the pre-established theses it wishes to demonstrate. For take away the supernatural order and the story of the origin of the Church must be built on quite another foundation, and hence the innovators handle as they list the monuments of history, forcing them to say what they wish them to say, and not what the authors of those monuments meant.

17. Many are captivated by the great show of erudition which is held out before them, and by the apparently convincing force of the proofs adduced, so that they either lose the faith or feel that it is greatly shaken in them. There are many too, firm in the faith, who accuse critical science of being destructive, while in itself it is innocent and a sure element of investigation when rightly applied. Both the former and the latter fail to see that they start from a false hypothesis, that is to say, from science falsely so-called, which logically forces them to conclusions equally false. For given a false philosophical principle everything deduced from it is vitiated. But these errors will never be effectively refuted, unless by bringing about a change of front, that is to say, unless those in error be forced to leave the field of criticism in which they consider themselves firmly entrenched for the legitimate field of philosophy through the abandonment of which they have fallen into their errors.

18. Meanwhile, however, it is painful to have to apply to men not lacking in acumen and application the rebuke addressed by St. Paul to those who fail to rise from earthly things to the things that are invisible: "They became vain in their thoughts and their foolish heart was darkened; for professing themselves to be wise they became fools" (Rom. i. 21, 22). And surely foolish is the only name for him who consumes all his intellectual forces in building upon sand.

19. Not less deplorable are the injuries which accrue from this negation to the moral life of individuals and of civil society. Take away the principle that there is anything divine outside this visible world, and you take away all check upon unbridled passions even of the lowest and most shameful kind, and the minds that become slaves to them riot in disorders of every species. "God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves" (Rom. i. 24). You are well aware, Venerable Brethren, how truly the plague of depravity triumphs on all sides, and how the civil authority wherever it fails to have recourse to the means of help offered by the supernatural order, finds itself quite unequal to the task of checking it. Nay, authority will never be able to heal other evils as long as it forgets or denies that all power comes from God. The only check a government can command in this case is that of force; but force cannot be constantly employed, nor is it always available yet the people continue to be undermined as by a secret disease, they become discontented with everything, they proclaim the right to act as they please, they stir up rebellions, they provoke revolutions, often of extreme violence, in the State; they overthrow all rights human and divine. Take away God, and all respect for civil laws, all regard for even the most necessary institutions disappears; justice is scouted; the very liberty that belongs to the law of nature is trodden underfoot; and men go so far as to destroy the very structure of the family, which is the first and firmest foundation of the social structure. The result is that in these days hostile to Christ, it has become more difficult to apply the powerful remedies which the Redeemer has put into the hands of the Church in order to keep the peoples within the lines of duty.

20. Yet there is no salvation for the world but in Christ: "For there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we may be saved" (Acts iv. 12). To Christ then we must return. At His feet we must prostrate ourselves to hear from His divine mouth the words of eternal life, for He alone can show us the way of regeneration, He alone teach us the truth, He alone restore life to us. It is He who has said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John xiv. 16). Men have once more attempted to work here below without Him, they have begun to build up the edifice after rejecting the corner stone, as the Apostle Peter rebuked the executioners of Jesus for doing. And lo! the pile that has been raised again crumbles and falls upon the heads of the builders, crushing them. But Jesus remains for ever the corner stone of human society, and again the truth becomes apparent that without Him there is no salvation: "This is the stone which has been rejected by you, the builders, and which has become the head of the corner, neither is there salvation in any other" (Acts iv. 11, 12).

21. From all this you will easily see, Venerable Brethren, the absolute necessity imposed upon every one of us to receive with all the energy of our souls and with all the means at our disposal, this supernatural life in every branch of society -- in the poor working-man who earns his morsel of bread by the sweat of his brow, from morning to night, and in the great ones of the earth who preside over the destiny of nations. We must, above all else, have recourse to prayer, both public and private, to implore the mercies of the Lord and His powerful assistance. "Lord, save us -- we perish" (Matthew viii. 25), we must repeat like the Apostles when buffeted by the storm.

22. But this is not enough. Gregory rebukes the bishop who, through love of spiritual solitude and prayer, fails to go out into the battlefield to combat strenuously for the cause of the Lord: "The name of bishop, which he bears, is an empty one." And rightly so, for men's intellects are to be enlightened by continual preaching of the truth, and errors are to be efficaciously refuted by the principles of true and solid philosophy and theology, and by all the means provided by the genuine progress of historical investigation. It is still more necessary to inculcate properly on the minds of all the moral maxims taught by Jesus Christ, so that everybody may learn to conquer himself, to curb the passions of the mind, to stifle pride, to live in obedience to authority, to love justice, to show charity towards all, to temper with Christian love the bitterness of social inequalities, to detach the heart from the goods of the world, to live contented with the state in which Providence has placed us, while striving to better it by the fulfillment of our duties, to thirst after the future life in the hope of eternal reward. But, above all, is it necessary that these principles be instilled and made to penetrate into the heart, so that true and solid piety may strike root there, and all, both as men and as Christians, may recognize by their acts, as well as by their words, the duties of their state and have recourse with filial confidence to the Church and her ministers to obtain from them pardon for their sins, to receive the strengthening grace of the Sacraments, and to regulate their lives according to the laws of Christianity.

23. With these chief duties of the spiritual ministry it is necessary to unite the charity of Christ, and when this moves us there will be nobody in affliction who will not be consoled by us, no tears that will not be dried by our hands, no need that will not be relieved by us. To the exercise of this charity let us dedicate ourselves wholly; let all our own affairs give way before it, let our personal interests and convenience be set aside for it, making ourselves "all things to all men" (I Cor. ix. 22), to gain all men to the Lord, giving up our very life itself, after the example of Christ: "The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep (John x. 11).

24. These precious admonitions abound in the pages which the Pontiff St. Gregory has left written, and they are expressed with far greater force in the manifold examples of his admirable life.

25. Now since all this springs necessarily both from the nature of the principles of Christian revelation, and from the intrinsic properties which Our Apostolate should have, you see clearly, Venerable Brethren, how mistaken are those who think they are doing service to the Church, and producing fruit for the salvation of souls, when by a kind of prudence of the flesh they show themselves liberal in concessions to science falsely so-called, under the fatal illusion that they are thus able more easily to win over those in error, but really with the continual danger of being themselves lost. The truth is one, and it cannot be halved; it lasts for ever, and is not subject to the vicissitudes of the times. "Jesus Christ, today and yesterday, and the same for ever" (Hebr. xiii. 8).

26. And so too are all they seriously mistaken who, occupying themselves with the welfare of the people, and especially upholding the cause of the lower classes, seek to promote above all else the material well-being of the body and of life, but are utterly silent about their spiritual welfare and the very serious duties which their profession as Christians enjoins upon them. They are not ashamed to conceal sometimes, as though with a veil, certain fundamental maxims of the Gospel, for fear lest otherwise the people refuse to hear and follow them. It will certainly be the part of prudence to proceed gradually in laying down the truth, when one has to do with men completely strangers to us and completely separated from God. "Before using the steel, let the wounds be felt with a light hand," as Gregory said (Registr. v. 44 (18) ad Joannem episcop.). But even this carefulness would sink to mere prudence of the flesh, were it proposed as the rule of constant and everyday action -- all the more since such a method would seem not to hold in due account that Divine Grace which sustains the sacerdotal ministry and which is given not only to those who exercise this ministry, but to all the faithful of Christ in order that our words and our action may find an entrance into their heart. Gregory did not at all understand this prudence, either in the preaching of the Gospel, or in the many wonderful works undertaken by him to relieve misery. He did constantly what the Apostles had done, for they, when they went out for the first time into the world to bring into it the name of Christ, repeated the saying: "We preach Christ crucified, a scandal for the Jews, a folly for the Gentiles" (I Cor. i. 23). If ever there was a time in which human prudence seemed to offer the only expedient for obtaining something in a world altogether unprepared to receive doctrines so new, so repugnant to human passions, so opposed to the civilization, then at its most flourishing period, of the Greeks and the Romans, that time was certainly the epoch of the preaching of the faith. But the Apostles disdained such prudence, because they understood well the precept of God: "It pleased God by the foolishness of our preaching to save them that believe (I Cor. i. 21). And as it ever was, so it is today, this foolishness "to them that are saved, that is, to us, is the power of God" (I Cor. i. 18). The scandal of the Crucified will ever furnish us in the future, as it has done in the past, with the most potent of all weapons; now as of yore in that sign we shall find victory.

27. But, Venerable Brethren, this weapon will lose much of its efficacy or be altogether useless in the hands of men not accustomed to the interior life with Christ, not educated in the school of true and solid piety, not thoroughly inflamed with zeal for the glory of God and for the propagation of His kingdom. So keenly did Gregory feel this necessity that he used the greatest care in creating bishops and priests animated by a great desire for the divine glory and for the true welfare of souls. And this was the intent he had before him in his book on the Pastoral Rule, wherein are gathered together the laws regulating the formation of the clergy and the government of bishops -- laws most suitable not for his times only but for our own. Like an "Argus full of light," says his biographer, "he moved all round the eyes of his pastoral solicitude through all the extent of the world" (Joann. Diac., lib ii. c. 55), to discover and correct the failings and the negligence of the clergy. Nay, he trembled at the very thought that barbarism and immortality might obtain a footing in the life of the clergy, and he was deeply moved and gave himself no peace whenever he learned of some infraction of the disciplinary laws of the Church, and immediately administered admonition and correction, threatening canonical penalties on transgressors, sometimes immediately applying these penalties himself, and again removing the unworthy from their offices without delay and without human respect.

28. Moreover, he inculcated the maxims which we frequently find in his writings in such form as this: "In what frame of mind does one enter upon the office of mediator between God and man who is not conscious of being familiar with grace through a meritorious life?" (Reg. Past. i. 10). "U passion lives in his actions, with what presumption does he hasten to cure the wound, when he wears a scar on his very face?" (Reg. Past. i. 9). What fruit can be expected for the salvation of souls if the apostles "combat in their lives what they preach in their words?" (Reg. Past i. 2). "Truly he cannot remove the delinquencies of others who is himself ravaged by the same" (Reg. Past. i. 11).

29. The picture of the true priest, as Gregory understands and describes him, is the man "who, dying to all passions of the flesh, already lives spiritually; who has no thought for the prosperity of the world; who has no fear of adversity; who desires only internal things; who does not permit himself to desire what belongs to others but is liberal of his own; who is all bowels of compassion and inclines to forgiveness, but in forgiveness never swerves unduly from the perfection of righteousness; who never commits unlawful actions, but deplores as though they were his own the unlawful actions of others; who with all affection of the heart compassionates the weakness of others, and rejoices in the prosperity of his neighbor as in his own profit; who in all his doings so renders himself a model for others as to have nothing whereof to be ashamed, at least, as regards his external actions; who studies so to live that he may be able to water the parched hearts of his neighbors with the waters of doctrine; who knows through the use of prayer and through his own experience that he can obtain from the Lord what he asks" (Reg. Past. i. 10).

30. How much thought, therefore, Venerable Brethren, must the Bishop seriously take with himself and in the presence of God before laying hands on young levites! "Let him never dare, either as an act of favor to anybody or in response to petitions made to him, to promote any one to sacred orders whose life and actions do not furnish a guarantee of worthiness" (Registr. v 63 (58) ad universos episcopos per Hellad.) With what deliberation should he reflect before entrusting the work of the apostolate to newly ordained priests! If they be not duly tried under the vigilant guardianship of more prudent priests, if there be not abundant evidence of their morality, of their inclination for spiritual exercises, of their prompt obedience to all the norms of action which are suggested by ecclesiastical custom or proved by long experience, or imposed by those whom "the Holy Ghost has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God" (Acts xx. 28), they will exercise the sacerdotal ministry not for the salvation but for the ruin of the Christian people. For they will provoke discord, and excite rebellion, more or less tacit, thus offering to the world the sad spectacle of something like division amongst us, whereas in truth these deplorable incidents are but the pride and unruliness of a few. Oh! let those who stir up discord be altogether removed from every office. Of such apostles the Church has no need; they are not apostles of Jesus Christ Crucified but of themselves.

31. We seem to see still present before Our eyes the Holy Pontiff Gregory at the Lateran Council, surrounded by a great number of bishops from all parts of the world. Oh, how fruitful is the exhortation that falls from his lips on the duties of the clergy! How his heart is consumed with zeal! His words are as lightnings rending the perverse, as scourges striking the indolent, as flames of divine love gently enfolding the most fervent. Read that wonderful homily of Gregory, Venerable Brethren, and have it read and meditated by your clergy, especially during the annual retreat (Hom. in Evang. i. 17).

32. Among other things, with unspeakable sorrow he exclaims: "Lo, the world is full of priests, but rare indeed it is to find a worker in the hands of God; we do indeed assume the priestly office, but the obligation of the office we do not fulfill" (Hom. in Evang. n. 3). What force the Church would have to-day could she count a worker in every priest! What abundant fruit would the supernatural life of the Church produce in souls were it efficaciously promoted by all. Gregory succeeded in his own times in strenuously stimulating this spirit of energetic action, and such was the impulse given by him that the same spirit was kept alive during the succeeding ages. The whole mediaeval period bears what may be called the Gregorian imprint; almost everything it had indeed came to it from the Pontiff -- the rule of ecclesiastical government, the manifold phases of charity and philanthropy in its social institutions, the principles of the most perfect Christian asceticism and of monastic life, the arrangement of the liturgy and the art of sacred music.

33. The times are indeed greatly changed. But, as We have more than once repeated, nothing is changed in the life of the Church. From her Divine Founder she has inherited the virtue of being able to supply at all times, however much they may differ, all that is required not only for the spiritual welfare of souls, which is the direct object of her mission, but also everything that aids progress in true civilization, for this follows as a natural consequence of that same mission.

34. For it cannot be but that the truths of the supernatural order, of which the Church is the depository, promote also everything that is true, good, and beautiful in the order of nature, and this the more efficaciously in proportion as these truths are traced to the supreme principle of all truth, goodness and beauty, which is God.

35. Human science gains greatly from revelation, for the latter opens out new horizons and makes known sooner other truths of the natural order, and because it opens the true road to investigation and keeps it safe from errors of application and of method. Thus does the lighthouse show many things they otherwise would not see, while it points out the rocks on which the vessel would suffer shipwreck.

36. And since, for our moral discipline, the Divine Redeemer proposes as our supreme model of perfection His heavenly Father (Matthew v. 48), that is, the Divine goodness itself, who can fail to see the mighty impulse thence accruing to the ever more perfect observance of the natural law inscribed in our hearts, and consequently to the greater welfare of the individual, the family, and universal society? The ferocity of the barbarians was thus transformed to gentleness, woman was freed from subjection, slavery was repressed, order was restored in the due and reciprocal independence upon one another of the various classes of society, justice was recognized, the true liberty of souls was proclaimed, and social and domestic peace assured.

37. Finally, the arts modeled on the supreme exemplar of all beauty which is God Himself, from whom is derived all the beauty to be found in nature, are more securely withdrawn from vulgar concepts and more efficaciously rise towards the ideal, which is the life of all art. And how fruitful of good has been the principle of employing them in the service of divine worship and of offering to the Lord everything that is deemed to be worthy of him, by reason of its richness, its goodness, its elegance of form. This principle has created sacred art, which became and still continues to be the foundation of all profane art. We have recently touched upon this in a special motu proprio, when speaking of the restoration of the Roman Chant according to the ancient tradition and of sacred music. And the same rules are applicable to the other arts, each in its own sphere, so that what has been said of the Chant may also be said of painting, sculpture, architecture; and towards all these most noble creations of genius the Church has been lavish of inspiration and encouragement. The whole human race, fed on this sublime ideal, raises magnificent temples, and here in the House of God, as in its own house, lifts up its heart to heavenly things in the midst of the treasures of all beautiful art, with the majesty of liturgical ceremony, and to the accompaniment of the sweetest of song.

38. All these benefits, We repeat, the action of the Pontiff St. Gregory succeeded in attaining in his own time and in the centuries that followed; and these, too, it will be possible to attain to-day, by virtue of the intrinsic efficacy of the principles which should guide us and of the means we have at our disposal, while preserving with all zeal the good which by the grace of God is still left us and "restoring in Christ" (Ephes. i. 10) all that has unfortunately lapsed from the right rule.

39. We are glad to be able to close these Our Letters with the very words with which St. Gregory concluded his memorable exhortation in the Lateran Council: "These things, Brethren, you should meditate with all solicitude yourselves and at the same time propose for the meditation of your neighbor. Prepare to restore to God the fruit of the ministry you have received. But everything we have indicated for you we shall obtain much better by prayer than by our discourse. Let us pray: O God, by whose will we have been called as pastors among the people, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may enabled to be in Thy sight what we are said to be by the mouths of men" (Hom. cit., ii. 18).
40. And while We trust by the intercession of the holy Pontiff Gregory that God may graciously hear Our prayer, We impart to all of you, Venerable Brethren, and to your clergy and people the Apostolic benediction with all the affection of Our heart, as a pledge of heavenly favors and in token of Our paternal good-will.

Given at Rome at St. Peter's on March 12, of the year 1904, on the feast of St. Gregory I. Pope and Doctor of the Church, in the first year of Our Pontificate.

Ephrem: Homily on Admonition and Repentance

By St.Ephrem the Syrian (306-373)

 Not of compulsion is the doctrine; of free-will is the word of life. Whoso is willing to hear the doctrine, let him cleanse the field of his will that the good seed fall not among the thorns of vain enquirings. If you would heed the word of life, cut yourself off from evil things; the hearing of the word profits nothing to the man that is busied with sins. If you will to be good, love not dissolute customs. First of all, trust in God, and then hearken to His law.

2)  You can not hear His words, while you do not know yourself; and if you keep His judgments while your understanding is aloof from Him, who will give you your reward? Who will keep for you your recompense? You were baptised in His Name; confess His Name! In the Persons and in the naming, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, three Names and Persons, these three shall be a wall to you, against divisions and wranglings. Doubt not of the truth, lest you perish through the truth. You were baptised from the water; you have put on Christ in His naming; the seat of the Lord is on your person and His stamp on your forehead. See that you become not another's, for other Lord have you none. One is He Who formed us in His mercy; one is He Who redeemed us on His cross. He it is Who guides our life; He it is Who has power over our feebleness; He it is Who brings to pass our Resurrection. He rewards us according to our works. Blessed is he that confesses Him, and hears and keeps His commandments! You, O man, are a son of God Who is high over all. See that you vex not by your works the Father Who is good and gracious.

3)  If you are angry against your neighbour, you are angry against God; and if you bear anger in your heart, against your Lord is your boldness uplifted. If in envy you rebuke, wicked is all your reproof. But if charity dwell in you, you have on earth no enemy. And if you are a true son of peace, you will stir up wrath in no man. If you are just and upright, you will not do wrong to your fellow. And if you love to be angry, be angry with the wicked and it will become you; if to wage war you seek, lo! Satan is your adversary; if you desire to revile, against the demons display your curses. If you should insult the King's image, you shall pay the penalty of murder; and if you revile a man, you revile the image of God. Do honour to your neighbour, and lo! You have honoured God. But if you would dishonour Him, in wrath assail your neighbour!

4)  This is the first Commandment,— You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and your soul, and with your might according as you are able. The sign that you love God, is this, that you love your fellow; and if you hate your fellow, your hatred is towards God. For it is blasphemy if you pray before God while you are angry. For your heart also convicts you, that in vain you multiply words: your conscience rightly judges that in your prayers you profit nought. Christ as He hung on the height of the tree, interceded for His murderers; and you (who art) dust, son of the clay, rage fills you at its will. You keep anger against your brother; and do you yet dare to pray? Even he that stands on your side, though he be not neighbour to your sins, the taint of iniquity reaches unto him, and his petition is not heard. Leave off rage and then pray; and unless you would further provoke, restrain anger and so shall you supplicate. And if he (the other) is not to encounter you in fury, banish rage from that body, because it is holden with lusts.

5)  You have a spiritual nature; the soul is the image of the Creator; honour the image of God, by being in agreement with all men. Remember death, and be not angry, that your peace be not of constraint. As long as your life remains to you, cleanse your soul from wrath; for if it should go to Sheol with you, your road will be straight to Gehenna. Keep not anger in your heart; hold not fury in your soul; you have not power over your soul, save to do that which is good. You are bought with the blood of God; you are redeemed by the passion of Christ; for your sake He suffered death, that you might die to your sins. His face endured spitting, that you might not shrink from scorn. Vinegar and gall did He drink, that you might be set apart from wrath. He received stripes on His body, that you might not fear suffering. If you are in truth His servant, fear your holy Lord; if you are His true disciple, walk in your Master's footsteps. Endure scorn from your brother, that you may be the companion of Christ. Display not anger against man, that you be not set apart from your Redeemer.

6)  You are a man, the dust of the earth, clay, kinsman of the clod; you are the son of the race of beasts. If you know not your honour; separate your soul from animals, by works and not by words. If you love derision, you are altogether as Satan; and if you mock at your fellow, you are the mouth of the Devil; if against defects and flaws, in (injurious) names you delight, Satan is not in creation but his place you have seized by force. Get you far, O man, from this; for it is altogether hurtful; and if you desire to live well, sit not with the scorner, lest you become the partner of his sin and of his punishment. Hate mockery which is altogether (the cause of weeping), and mirth which is (the cause of) cleansing. And if you should hear a mocker by chance, when you are not desiring it, sign yourself with the cross of light, and hasten from thence like an antelope. Where Satan lodges, Christ will in nowise dwell; a spacious dwelling for Satan is the man that mocks at his neighbour; a palace of the Enemy is the heart of the mocker. Satan does not desire to add any other evil to it. Mockery is sufficient for him to supply the place of all. Neither his belly nor yet his purse can (the sinner) fill with that sin of his. By his laughter is the wretch despoiled, and he knows not nor does he perceive it. For his wound, there is no cure; for his sickness, there is no healing; his pain, admits no remedy; and his sore, endures no medicine. I desire not with such a one to put forth my tongue to reprove him: enough for him is his own shame; sufficient for him is his boldness. Blessed is he that has not heard him; and blessed is he that has not known him. Be it far from you, O Church, that he should enter you, that evil leaven of Satan!

7)  Narrow is the way of life, and broad the way of torment; prayer is able to bring a man to the house of the kingdom. This is the perfect work; prayer that is pure from iniquity. The righteousness of man is as nothing accounted. The work of men, what is it? His labour is altogether vanity. Of You, O Lord, of Your grace it is that in our nature we should become good. Of You is righteousness, that we from men should become righteous. Of You is the mercy and favour, that we from the dust should become Your image. Give power to our will, that we be not sunk in sin! Pour into our heart memory, that at every hour we may know Your honour! Plant truth in our minds, that we perish not among doubts! Occupy our understanding with Your law, that it wander not in vain thoughts! Order the motions of our members, that they bring no hurt upon us! Draw near to God, that Satan may flee from you. Cast out passions from your heart, and lo! You have put to flight the enemy. Hate sins and wickedness, and Satan at once will have fled. Whatsoever sins you serve, you are worshipping secret idols. Whatsoever transgressions you love, you are serving demons in your soul. Whenever you strive with your brother, Satan abides in peace. Whenever you envy your fellow, you give rest to Devils. Whenever you tell the shortcoming of others who are not present, your tongue has made a harp for the music of the devil. Whenever hatred is in your soul, great is the peace of the Deceiver. Whenever you love incantations, your labour is altogether of the left hand. If you love unseemly discourse, you prepare a feast for demons. For this is the worship of idols, the working of the lusts (of the flesh).

8)  If so be you give a gift in pride, this is not of God. If you are lifted up by reason of your knowledge, you have denied the grace of God. If you are poor and proud, lo! Your end is in your torment. If you are haughty and needy, lo! Your need is toward your destruction. If you are sick and criest out, lo! Your trouble is full of harm. If you are in need of food, yet your mind longs for riches; your distress is with the poor, but your torment with the rich. If you shall look unchastely, and shall desire your neighbour's wife, lo! Your portion shall be with the adulterers, and your hell with the fornicators. Let your own fountain be for yourself, and drink waters from your well. Let your fountains be for yourself alone, and let not another drink with you. Require purity of your body as you require of your yoke-fellow. You would not have her commit lewdness, the wife of your youth, with another man; commit not lewdness with another woman, the wife of a different husband. Let the defilement of her be hateful in your eyes; keep aloof from it altogether. Chastity beseems the wife; purity is as her adornment; law becomes the husband; justice is the crown for his head. Desire not the bed of your neighbour lest another desire your bed. Preserve purity in your marriage, that your marriage may be holy. His conscience reproves the man, who corrupts the wife of his neighbour. He fears, and deceives through terror, whoso has engaged in fornication. Darkness is dearer to him than light, whose manner of life is not pure. Every hour he stands in dread, who commits adultery secretly. The adulterer is also a thief who breaks into houses in darkness. The very place reproves him, where he does the evil and wickedness. He enters the chamber and sins; in the darkness he does his will. The time will come when it shall be disclosed, when his secret deeds shall be manifested. With what eyes do you look towards God in prayer? What hands do you raise when you ask pardon? Be ashamed and dismayed for yourself, that you are void of understanding. If when your neighbour see you, you are ashamed and dismayed, how much more should you be ashamed before God Who sees all? You are like the sow, your companion, that wallows altogether in mire. Even in seeing, you may sin, if your mind is not watchful; and in hearing you may transgress, if you do not guard your hearing. The fornicator's heart waxes wanton through speech that is full of uncleanness. The passion hidden in the mind, sight and hearing awaken it.

9)  He puts on garments of shame who desires to commit fornication, that from the lust of raiment, lewdness may enter and dwell in his heart. Make not snares of your garments for that which is openly wanton. Speak not a word in craftiness, nor dig your neighbour's well. Look not after the harlot; be not snared by the beauty of her face. She is even as the dog that is mad, yea, much more bold than it. Modesty is removed from her face, she knows not what shame is. With spitting accept her person; with reviling meet herself; with a rod pursue her like a dog, for she is like one, and to be compared with such. Reject the sweetness of her words lest you fall into her net. She empties purses and wallets, and her gains are without number. Flee from her, for she is the daughter of vipers, that she tear not in pieces your whole body.

10)  You shall not slander any man, lest they call you Satan. If you hate the name, go not near to the act; but if you love the act, be not angry at the name. Count yourself rebuked first of all by the beasts and birds, how that every kind cleaves to its kind; and so agree with your yokefellow. Rejoice not in men's dishonour, that you become not a Satan yourself. If evil should happen to him that hates you, see that you rejoice not, lest you sin. If your adversary should fall, be in pain and mourning. Keep your heart with all diligence, that it sin not in secret; for there is to be a laying bare of thoughts and of actions. Employ your hands in labour, and let your heart meditate in prayer. Love not vain discourse, for discourse that shall be profitable alike to the soul and the body lightens the burden of your labour.

11)  Does the poor man cry at your door? Arise and open for him gladly: refresh him when he is wearied; sustain his heart, for it is sad. You know by experience the affliction of poverty: receive not others in your house, and drive not out the beggar. Have you also a law, a comely law for your household. Establish an order that is wise, that the abjects laugh not at you. Be careful in all your doings, that you be not a sport for fools; be upright and prudent, and both simple and wise. Let your body be quiet and cheerful, your greeting seemly and simple; your discourse without fault, your speech brief and savoury; your words few and sound, full of savour and understanding. Speak not overmuch, not even words that are wise; for all things that are over many, though they be wise are wearisome.— To them of your household be as a father. Amongst your brethren esteem yourself least, and inferior among your fellows, and of little account with all men. With your friend keep a secret; to those that love you be true. See that there be no wrangling; the secrets of your friends reveal not, lest all that hear you hate you and esteem you a mischiefmaker. With those that hate you wrangle not, neither face to face nor yet in your heart. No enemy shall you have but Satan his very self. Give counsel to the wife you have wedded; give heed to her doings; as stronger you are answerable that you should sustain her weakness. For weak is womankind, and very ready to fall. Be as a hawk, when kindled (to anger), but when wrath departs from you, be gladsome and also firm, in the blending of diverse qualities. Keep silence among the aged; to the elders give due honour. Honour the priests with diligence, as good stewards of the household. Give due honour to their degree, and search not out their doings. In his degree the priest is an angel, but in his doings a man. By mercy he is made a mediator, between God and mankind.

12)  Search not out the faults of men; reveal not the sin of your fellow; the shortcomings of your neighbours, in speech of the mouth repeat not. You are not judge in creation, you have not dominion over the earth. If you love righteousness, reprove your soul and yourself. Be judge unto your own sins, and chastener of your own transgressions. Make not inquiry maliciously, into the misdeeds of men. For if you do this, injuries will not be lacking to you. Trust not the hearing of the ear, for many are the deceivers. Vain reports believe not, for false rumours are not few.

13  Regard not spells and divinations, for that is communion with Satan. Love not idle prating, not even in behalf of righteousness. Discourse concerning yourself begin not, even in behalf of what is becoming. Flee and hide yourself from wrangling, as from a violent robber. See that you be not a surety in a loan, lest you sin. According as you have, assist him, (even) the man that is poorer than you. Mock not the foolish man; pray that you be not even as he. Him that sins blame not, lest you also be put to confusion. To him that repents of his sins be a helper and counsellor, and encourage him that is able to rise. Let him hold fast hope in God, and his sin shall be burned as stubble. Visit the sick and be not wearied, that you may be beloved of men. Be familiar with the house of mourning, but a stranger to the house of feasting. Be not constant in drinking wine, lest your shortcomings multiply. Cast a wall round your lips, and set a guard upon your mouth; endure suffering with your neighbour and share also in his tribulation. A good friend in tribulation is made known to him that loves him. In charity follow the deceased, with sorrow and with offerings, and pray that he may have rest in the hidden place whither he is going.

14)  When you stand in prayer, cry in your soul: Have mercy on me, I am a sinner and weak; be gracious, O God, to my weakness, and grant strength to me to pray a prayer that shall be pleasing to Your Will. Punish not mine enemies, take not vengeance on them that hate me; but grant them in Your grace that they may become doers of Your Will. At the time of prayer and petition, continue in contemplations such as these continue. Bow your head before the Mighty One.

15)  Do not resist evil, for he is evil from the Evil One, whoso resists evil. Keep not back anything from any man, that if he perishes you may not be blamed. Change not your respect for a man's person, according to goods and possessions. Make all things as though they were not and God alone were in being. If you shall ask of your neighbour and he shall not give you according to your wish, see that you say not in anger a word that is full of bitterness. Oppose not [fit] seasons, for many are the changes. Put sorrow far from your flesh, and sadness from your thoughts; save only that for your sins you should be constant in sadness. Cease not from labour, not even though you be rich, for the slothful man gains manifold guilt by his idleness.

16)  Be a lover of poverty, and be desirous of neediness. If you have them both for your portion, you are an inheritor on high. Despise not the voice of the poor and give him not cause to curse you. For if he curse whose palate is bitter, the Lord will hear his petition. If his garments are foul, wash them in water, which freely is bought. Has a poor man entered into your house? God has entered into your house; God dwells within your abode. He, whom you have refreshed from his troubles, from troubles will deliver you. Have you washed the feet of the stranger? You have washed away the filth of your sins. Have you prepared a table before him? Behold God eating [at it], and Christ likewise drinking [at it], and the Holy Spirit resting [on it]: Is the poor satisfied at your table and refreshed? You have satisfied Christ your Lord. He is ready to be your rewarder; in presence of angels and men He will confess you have fed His hunger; He will give thanks unto you that you gave Him drink, and quenched His thirst.

17)  O how gracious is the Lord! O how measureless are His mercies! Happy the race of mortals when God confesses it! Woe to the soul which He denies! Fire is stored up for its punishment. Be of good cheer, my son, in hope; sow good [seed] and faint not. The husbandman sows in hope, and the merchant journeys in hope, you also love good [seed]; in the hope look for the reward. Do nothing at all without the beginning of prayer. With the sign of the living cross, seal all your doings, my son. Go not forth from the door of your house till you have signed the cross. Whether in eating or in drinking, whether in sleeping or in waking, whether in your house or on the road, or again in the season of leisure, neglect not this sign; for there is no guardian like it. It shall be unto you as a wall, in the forefront of all your doings. And teach this to your children, that heedfully they be conformed to it.

18)  Yoke yourself under the law, that you may be a freeman in very truth. Work not the desire of your soul apart from the law of God. How many commandments must I write, and how many laws must I engrave; which, if you desire your freedom, you can learn all from yourself? And if you love purity, you will teach it to others also. Let nature be your book, and all creation your tables; and learn from them the laws, and meditate things unwritten. The sun in his course teaches you that you rest from labour. The night in her silence cries to you that a limit is set to your works. The earth and the fruit of the tree cry that there is a season for all things. The seed you sow in the winter, in the summer you gather its harvest. Thus in the world sow seeds of righteousness, and in the Resurrection gather them in. The bird in its daily gleaning reproves the covetous and his greed, and rebukes the extortion that grasps the store of others. Death, the limit of all things, is itself the reprover of all things.

19)  Take refuge in God Who passes not away nor is changed. Restrain laughter by suffering, and mirthfulness by sorrow. Console suffering by hope, and sadness by expectation. Believe and trust, you that are wise, for God is He Who guides you; and if His care leaves you not, there is nothing that can harm you. If one man by another man, the lowly by the great, can be saved, how much more shall the refuge of God preserve the man that believes? Fear not because of adversaries who with violence come upon you. He will watchfully guard your soul, and hurtful things become profitable. No one shall lead you by compulsion, save only where there is freedom. No one falls into temptation, that passes the measure of his strength. There is no evil in chastisement, if so be that freedom is willing. The doings are not perverse of freedom, its will is perverted.

20)  To men that are just and upright, temptations become helps. Job, a man of discernment, was victorious in temptations. Sickness came upon him, and he complained not; disease afflicted him and he murmured not; his body failed and his strength departed, but his will was not weakened. He proved perfect in all by sufferings, for as much as temptations crushed him not. Abraham was a stranger, from his place, his race [and his kindred]. But by this he was not harmed; nay rather he triumphed greatly. So Joseph from the house of bondage was made to rule as king of Egypt. They of the company of Ananias and Daniel delivered others from bondage. See then, O you that are wise, the power that freedom possesses; that nothing can injure it unless the will is weakened. Israel with sumptuous living waxed fat, and kicked, and forgot his covenant. He worshipped vain gods, and forgot the nature of his creation. The bondage that was in Egypt he forgat in the repose of the desert. As often as he was afflicted, he acknowledged the Lord alone; but when he was dwelling in repose, he forgot God his Redeemer. Seek not here repose, for this is a world of toil. And if you can wisely discern, change not time for time; that which abides for that which abides not; that which ceases not for that which ceases; nor truth for lying; nor body for shadow; nor watching for slumber; nor that which is in season for that which is out of season; nor the Time for the times. Collect your mind, let it not wander among varieties which profit not.

21)  No one in creation is rich but he that fears God; no one is truly poor but he that lacks the truth. How needy is he, and not rich, whose need witnesses against him that even from the abject and the beggars he needs to receive a gift. He is truly a bondman, and many are his masters: he renders service to money, to riches, and possessions. His lords are void of mercy, for they grant him no repose. Flee, and live in poverty; (as) a mother she pities her beloved. Seek refuge in indigence, who nourishes her children with choice things; her yoke is light and pleasant, and sweet to the palate her memory. The sick in conscience alone abhors the draught of poverty; the fainthearted dreads the yoke of indigence that is honourable. Who has granted to You, Son of man, in the world to find repose? Who has granted to you, thing of dust, to be rich amidst poverty? Be not through desires needy and looking to others. Sufficient for you is your daily bread, that comes of the sweat of your face. Let this be (the measure of your need, that which the day gives you; and if you find for yourself a feast, take of it that which you need. You shall not take in a day (the provision) of days, for the belly keeps no treasure. Praise and give thanks when you are satisfied, that therein you provoke not the Giver to anger. In purity strengthen yourself, that you may gain from it profit. In everything give thanks and praise unto God as the Redeemer, that He may grant you by His grace, that we may hear and do His Will.

You to whom I have given the counsel of life, be not negligent in it. From that which is other men's (doctrine) have I written to you; see that you despise not their words. And if I depart before you, in your prayer make mention of me. In every season pray and beseech that our love may continue true. But as for us, on behalf of these things let us offer up praise and honour to Father, to Son, and to Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

John Damascene: "No one has seen God"

That the Deity is incomprehensible

"NO ONE has seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. The Deity, therefore, is ineffable and incomprehensible. For no one knows the Father, save the Son, nor the Son, save the Father. (Mt 11:27) And the Holy Spirit, too, so knows the things of God as the spirit of the man knows the things that are in him. (1 Cor 2:11) Moreover, after the first and blessed nature no one, not of men only, but even of supramundane powers, and the Cherubim, I say, and Seraphim themselves, has ever known God, save he to whom He revealed Himself.

"God, however, did not leave us in absolute ignorance. For the knowledge of God's existence has been implanted by Him in all by nature. This creation, too, and its maintenance, and its government, proclaim the majesty of the Divine nature. (Ws 13:5) Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets in former times and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us. All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honour , seeking for nothing beyond these. For God, being good, is the cause of all good, subject neither to envy nor to any passion. For envy is far removed from the Divine nature, which is both passionless and only good. As knowing all things, therefore, and providing for what is profitable for each, He revealed that which it was to our profit to know; but what we were unable to bear He kept secret. With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition (Prov 22:28)."

~St. John DamasceneExposition of the Orthodox Faith, 1, 1.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Augustine: On the State

"WHAT DISCOURSES or writings of philosophers, what laws of any commonwealth in any land or age, are worthy for a moment to be compared with the two commandments on which Christ says that all the law and the prophets hang: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbour as yourself”? All philosophy is here—physics, ethics, logic: the first, because in God the Creator are all the causes of all existences in nature; the second, because a good and honest life is not produced in any other way than by loving, in the manner in which they should be loved, the proper objects of our love, namely, God and our neighbour; and the third, because God alone is the Truth and the Light of the rational soul. Here also is security for the welfare and renown of a commonwealth; for no state is perfectly established and preserved otherwise than on the foundation and by the bond of faith and of firm concord, when the highest and truest common good, namely, God, is loved by all, and men love each other in Him without dissimulation, because they love one another for His sake from whom they cannot disguise the real character of their love."
-- Letters, 175, 5: To Lord Volusianus (A.D. 412).

"FOR WHAT is a republic but a commonwealth? Therefore its interests are common to all; they are the interests of the State. Now what is a State (civitas) but a multitude of men bound together by some bond of concord? In one of their own authors we read: “What was a scattered and unsettled multitude had by concord become in a short time a State.” But what exhortations to concord have they ever appointed to be read in their temples? So far from this, they were unhappily compelled to devise how they might worship without giving offense to any of their gods, who were all at such variance among themselves, that, had their worshippers imitated their quarrelling, the State must have fallen to pieces for want of the bond of concord, as it soon afterwards began to do through civil wars, when the morals of the people were changed and corrupted."
-- Letters, 138, 2: To Marcellinus (A.D. 412)

"HOW MUCH MORE, then, ought we unhesitatingly to obey God, the Governor of all His creatures! For as among the authorities of human society the greater authority is obeyed before the lesser, so must God above all."
-- Confessions, 3, 8.

~St. Augustine of Hippo

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