On Obedience for Our Sakes

BetrayalSt. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For even though He was God, yet He fulfilled obedience in the flesh and according to the flesh and prevailed over the will of the flesh by the will of the Godhead, as He had said beforehand, ‘I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of the Father Who sent Me, calling that of the flesh His own will, since the flesh had become His own.

It was necessary for the will of the flesh to be moved and yet subjected to the divine will, and so human disobedience is forgiven as a result of this extraordinary obedience, that of Christ for our sake. (Sermon on ‘Now My soul is troubled’ preserved in full in the Acts of Constantinople III, ACO II/2, 658-62, p. 660,10-17)

On the Dread in Gethsemane

Garden-of-GethsemaneSt. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

[H]e felt dread as a man and was troubled as a man. It was not the Power that was troubled, it was not the Godhead that was troubled: He was troubled in His own soul, He was troubled in the nature of human weakness; for since He took our soul, therefore, He assumed the emotions of our souls as well. For He was not able to be troubled or distressed as God. But even if He says, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?, He utters this as man, displaying my infirmities. For when we are in danger, we think that we have been abandoned by God. So He is troubled as man, He weeps as man, He is crucified as man. (De Fide II.7, 25-33, CSEL 78, pp. 75-6)

[W]hen He says, ‘Let not My will be done,’ He indicates the human will by this remark; in adding ‘Yours’, He displays His paternal will, since the human will is for a time, while God’s will is by nature eternal. Therefore, the will of the Father and the will of the Son are not different; for where there is one Godhead, the will is certainly one. (Exposition of Luke X. 60, CCSL 14, 363)

On Elder Philotheos and the Pious Priests

Elder PhilotheosBlessed Elder Philotheos of Paros 1884-1980

Now I come to you, the Priests of Greece and especially of Athens, and I beg you to hear me attentively. When 50 years ago—I do not remember precisely—Meletios Metaxakis of Kition…ascended to the Archepiscopal throne of Athens, he summoned a clergy congress in a hall in the offices of the Metropolis. Almost all the priests of Athens came enthusiastically to hear his paternal counsels. Instead of telling them, as Christ told His disciples, ‘Ye are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven’ [St. Matthew 5:14,16]—to be ‘humble, merciful, meek, pure in heart, peacemakers, patient in afflictions, temptations, persecutions, accusations, and to rejoice when men persecute you, hate you and wrong you, to love God and every man, even your enemies, and to pray for them’ [St. Matthew, chapter 5]—he gave them the following advice. Listen, so that you may shudder and weep: ‘In Europe all the clergy shave, cut their hair, and go without rasa. We should imitate them, in case we should seem out of date and uncivilized.’ Then almost all the priests, with one mouth, with boldness and confidence, said to him: ‘Your Beatitude, we are Greek Orthodox; we will never become heretics, Protestants or Papists.’ Then, as a politician, not as a pastor, he told them: ‘I did not tell you to become Protestants and Papists. I told you that, because I am concerned for your health, since beards, uncut hair and rasa cause illness.’ A fair number of priests replied to him: ‘We are healthier than those who are shaven and woman-faced.’ Having given up hope because his aim and his advice had proved vain and fruitless, he turned to a doctor, whom he had brought along to assist his purpose, and said to him, ‘Doctor, talk to them, advise them, because they will not listen to me.’ When he was called upon to speak, the doctor began to give them advice, but some of the priests did not allow him to, saying to the Metropolitan: ‘Let the physician heal himself.’ Others said to the doctor, ‘Go and cure the sick who summon you. We are neither sick nor have we summoned you,’ and in this way the clergy congress dissolved into a shaming of Meletios Metaxakis, the modernist, the innovator, the scorner of Patristic Traditions, and redounded to the glory of God, the boast of Orthodoxy, and the praise of the priests of Athens. (Fourth Clarion Call to Salvation [Thessaloniki: “Orthodoxos Kypseli” Editions, 1981], p. 36)

On Orthodox Catholic Teaching

PaisiusSt. Paisii Velichkovsky 1722-1794

Knowing, as is clear from the teaching and commandments of our God-bearing Fathers, that one who has brethren under his guidance must not instruct and teach them according to his own understanding and discernment. But rather according to the true and right understanding of Divine Scripture, as is taught by the divine Fathers, teachers of the inhabited world, and likewise by the teachers and instructors of monastic life, being enlightened by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit. And knowing further the poverty of my own mind, and fearing and trembling lest I myself fall, and push those who follow me, into a pit of perdition like a blind man, according to the word of the Lord, because of my inexperience. Therefore, I placed as an unshakable foundation in true and undeceived instruction, undeviating from the true path of God, both for my own poor soul and for my holy brethren, the Divine Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and its true interpretation by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, that is, the teaching of our God-bearing Fathers, the teachers of the inhabited world and the instructors of the monastic life, the Holy Councils and all the Canons of the Apostles and Councils and Holy Fathers which the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Eastern Church contains, and all Her commandments and rites. I offered all this, as I have said, as instruction for myself and the holy brethren, so that both I and the brethren living with me, being instructed by these, God cooperating and enlightening us by His grace, might not sin against the right and catholic thinking of the Holy Orthodox Church. (Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky: The Man Behind the Philokalia, p. 77-78)

On the Primordial Fast

Christ cursing Adam, Eve and the SerpantSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Fasting is as old as humanity: it was legislated in Paradise. It was the first command that Adam received: You shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You shall not eat legislates fasting and self-control. If Eve had fasted from the tree, we would not need this fasting now. For those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. We have been injured by sin; let us be healed by repentance. But repentance is futile without fasting. Cursed is the ground; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you. You have been ordered to be sorrowful, not to indulge yourself. Make satisfaction to God through fasting. Now the manner of life in Paradise is an image of fasting, not only insofar as man, sharing the life of the angels, achieved likeness to them by being content with little, but also because those who lived in Paradise had still not dreamt up what humans later discovered through their inventiveness: there was still no drinking of wine, still no animal sacrifices, not to mention whatever else beclouds the human mind. It is because we did not fast that we were banished from Paradise. So let us fast that we may return to it. Don’t you realize that Lazarus entered Paradise through fasting? Do not imitate the disobedience of Eve. Then again, do not take the serpent as your advisor, who suggests that you eat out of regard for the flesh. (2014-08-19. On Fasting and Feasts [Popular Patristic Series Book 50] Kindle Locations 1293-1311. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

On the Sane Members of the Church

St.-John-of-DamascusSt. John of Damascus ca. 676-749

[T]he sane members of the Church respect the sacred canons, and refer matters pertaining to these to bishops and presidents, thus showing by their deeds a great respect for those whom they esteem for the sake of the good order. (The Fount of Knowledge: On Heresies, 100)

On St. Vincent of Lerins and Origen

2006Met. Kallistos Ware frequently quotes St. Vincent of Lerins in his talks and writing as ancient testimony in approval of the condemned theologian Origen of Alexandria. The Metropolitan routinely claims that he is agreement with St. Vincent when he wrote, “Who would not rather be wrong with Origen than right with everyone else?”. But what actually did St. Vincent say in context?

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

…[I]n the Church of God the teacher’s error is the people’s trial, a trial by so much the greater in proportion to the greater learning of the erring teacher… An important fact truly, useful to be learned, and necessary to be remembered, and to be illustrated and enforced again and again, by example upon example, in order that all true Catholics may understand that it behooves them with the Church to receive Teachers, not with Teachers to desert the faith of the Church.

My belief is, that among many instances of this sort of trial which might be produced, there is not one to be compared with that of Origen, in whom there were many things so excellent, so unique, so admirable, that antecedently any one would readily deem that implicit faith was to be placed all his assertions. For if the conversation and manner of life carry authority, great was his industry, great his modesty, his patience, his endurance; if his descent or his erudition, what more noble than his birth of a house rendered illustrious by martyrdom? Afterwards, when in the cause of Christ he had been deprived not only of his father, but also of all his property, he attained so high a standard in the midst of the straits of holy poverty, that he suffered several times, it is said, as a Confessor. Nor were these the only circumstances connected with him, all of which afterwards proved an occasion of trial. He had a genius so powerful, so profound, so acute, so elegant, that there was hardly any one whom he did not very far surpass. The splendor of his learning, and of his erudition generally, was such that there were few points of divine philosophy, hardly any of human which he did not thoroughly master. When Greek had yielded to his industry, he made himself a proficient in Hebrew. What shall I say of his eloquence, the style of which was so charming, so soft, so sweet, that honey rather than words seemed to flow from his mouth! What subjects were there, however difficult, which he did not render clear and perspicuous by the force of his reasoning? What undertakings, however hard to accomplish, which he did not make to appear most easy? But perhaps his assertions rested simply on ingeniously woven argumentation? On the contrary, no teacher ever used more proofs drawn from Scripture. Then I suppose he wrote little? No man more, so that, if I mistake not, his writings not only cannot all be read through, they cannot all be found; for that nothing might be wanting to his opportunities of obtaining knowledge, he had the additional advantage of a life greatly prolonged. But perhaps he was not particularly happy in his disciples? Who ever more so? From his school came forth doctors, priests, confessors, martyrs, without number. Then who can express how much he was admired by all, how great his renown, how wide his influence? Who was there whose religion was at all above the common standard that did not hasten to him from the ends of the earth? What Christian did not reverence him almost as a prophet; what philosopher as a master? How great was the veneration with which he was regarded, not only by private persons, but also by the Court, is declared by the histories which relate how he was sent for by the mother of the Emperor Alexander, moved by the heavenly wisdom with the love of which she, as he, was inflamed. To this also his letters bear witness, which, with the authority which he assumed as a Christian Teacher, he wrote to the Emperor Philip, the first Roman prince that was a Christian. As to his incredible learning, if any one is unwilling to receive the testimony of Christians at our hands, let him at least accept that of heathens at the hands of philosophers. For that impious Porphyry says that when he was little more than a boy, incited by his fame, he went toAlexandria, and there saw him, then an old man, but a man evidently of so great attainments, that he had reached the summit of universal knowledge.

Time would fail me to recount, even in a very small measure, the excellencies of this man, all of which, nevertheless, not only contributed to the glory of religion, but also increased the magnitude of the trial. For who in the world would lightly desert a man of so great genius, so great learning, so great influence, and would not rather adopt that saying, ‘That he would rather be wrong with Origen, than be right with others’.

What shall I say more? The result was that very many were led astray from the integrity of the faith, not by any human excellencies of this so great man, this so great doctor, this so great prophet, but, as the event showed, by the too perilous trial which he proved to be. Hence it came to pass, that this Origen, such and so great as he was, wantonly abusing the grace of God, rashly following the bent of his own genius, and placing overmuch confidence in himself, making light account of the ancient simplicity of the Christian religion, presuming that he knew more than all the world besides, despising the traditions of the Church and the determinations of the ancients, and interpreting certain passages of Scripture in a novel way, deserved for himself the warning given to the Church of God, as applicable in his case as in that of others, If there arise a prophet in the midst of you,… you shall not hearken to the words of that prophet,…because the Lord your God does make trial of you, whether you love Him or not. (Deut. 13:1) Truly, thus of a sudden to seduce the Church which was devoted to him, and hung upon him through admiration of his genius, his learning, his eloquence, his manner of life and influence, while she had no fear, no suspicion for herself—thus, I say, to seduce the Church, slowly and little by little, from the old religion to a new profaneness, was not only a trial, but a great trial.

But some one will say, Origen’s books have been corrupted. I do not deny it; nay, I grant it readily. For that such is the case has been handed down both orally and in writing, not only by Catholics, but by heretics as well. But the point is, that though himself be not, yet books published under his name are, a great trial, which, abounding in many hurtful blasphemies, are both read and delighted in, not as being some one else’s, but as being believed to be his, so that, although there was no error in Origen’s original meaning, yet Origen’s authority appears to be an effectual cause in leading people to embrace error.

The case is the same with Tertullian. For as Origen holds by far the first place among the Greeks, so does Tertullian among the Latins. For who more learned than he, who more versed in knowledge whether divine or human? With marvelous capacity of mind he comprehended all philosophy, and had a knowledge of all schools of philosophers, and of the founders and upholders of schools, and was acquainted with all their rules and observances, and with their various histories and studies. Was not his genius of such unrivalled strength and vehemence that there was scarcely any obstacle which he proposed to himself to overcome, that he did not penetrate by acuteness, or crush by weight? As to his style, who can sufficiently set forth its praise? It was knit together with so much cogency of argument that it compelled assent, even where it failed to persuade. Every word almost was a sentence; every sentence a victory…Yet this man also, notwithstanding all that I have mentioned, this Tertullian, I say, too little tenacious of Catholic doctrine, that is, of the universal and ancient faith, more eloquent by far than faithful, changed his belief, and justified what the blessed Confessor, Hilary, writes of him, namely, that by his subsequent error he detracted from the authority of his approved writings. He also was a great trial in the Church. But of Tertullian I am unwilling to say more. This only I will add, that, contrary to the injunction of Moses, by asserting the novel furies of Montanus which arose in the Church, and those mad dreams of new doctrine dreamed by mad women, to be true prophecies, he deservedly made both himself and his writings obnoxious to the words, If there arise a prophet in the midst of you,…you shall not hearken to the words of that prophet. For why? Because the Lord your God does make trial of you, whether you love Him or not.

It behooves us, then, to give heed to these instances from Church History, so many and so great, and others of the same description, and to understand distinctly, in accordance with the rule laid down in Deuteronomy, that if at any time a Doctor in the Church have erred from the faith, Divine Providence permits it in order to make trial of us, whether or not we love God with all our heart and with all our mind. (The Commonitory: 27-29, 42-47)

St. Vincent actually says the exact opposite in context.

(1 Tim. 4:16) Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

On Women in Christ

IMG_0983St. Paulinus of Nola ca. 354-431

The Apostle’s authority has allowed only women to have long hair, for though their faith like that of men removes the veil from their hearts, fitting modesty demands a covering for their heads and a veil for their brows… Hair is unbecoming for men because Christ, the Head of every man, cannot be concealed… She is no one’s head, but the embellishment of her husband by the adornment of her virtue. We might say that she is placed at the base to support that body’s chain which is linked to God by the head of Christ, to Christ by the head of man, and to man by the head of woman. But Christ makes woman also belong to the Head at the top by making her part of the body and of the structure of the limbs, for in Christ we are neither male or female (Gal. 3:28)…

Let them realize why Paul ordered their heads to be clothed with a more abundant covering: it is because of the angels, that is, the angels who are ready to seduce them and whom the saints will condemn… A woman ought to cover her head especially in prayer and prophecy. Then she becomes pregnant with the Spirit, and accordingly rouses the hatred of of the tempter all the more when she leaves behind the boundaries of her womanly weakness, and aspires to human perfection… So because a woman becomes spiritually pregnant,… she has a power over her head, so that the wiles and snares of the enemy may not confront her. Her hair shows that by this power she is both guided and defended. Strength is bestowed on her by that very humility of heart by which through the guidance of self-control she restrains the arrogance of knowledge. (Letter 23: To Severus)

On the Biblico-Patristic Mindset II

St. Benedict of NursiaSt. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-543

[F]or those who would hasten to the perfection of that life there are the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the observance of which leads to the height of perfection.  For what page or what utterance
of the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not a most unerring rule for human life?  Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers does not loudly proclaim how we may come by a straight course to our Creator?  Then the Conferences and the Institutes and the Lives of the Fathers,
as also the Rule of our holy Father Basil —  what else are they but tools of virtue for [the] right-living and obedient…?  But for us who are lazy and ill-living and negligent they are a source of shame and confusion. (The Rule, Chap. 73)

 

On the Source of Disorder and Disharmony

Agios VasiliosSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Liberated from the error of pagan tradition through the benevolence and lovingkindness of the good God with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the operation of the Holy Spirit, I was reared from the very beginning by Christian parents. From them I learned even in babyhood the Holy Scriptures which led me to a knowledge of the truth. When I grew to manhood, I traveled about frequently and, in the natural course of things, I engaged in a great many worldly affairs. Here I observed that the most harmonious relations existed among those trained in the pursuit of each of the arts and sciences; while in the Church of God alone, for which Christ died and upon which He poured out in abundance the Holy Spirit, I noticed that many disagree violently with one another and also in their understanding of the Holy Scriptures. Most alarming of all is the fact that I found the very leaders of the Church themselves at such variance with one another in thought and opinion, showing so much opposition to the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so mercilessly rending asunder the Church of God and cruelly confounding His flock that, in our day, with the rise of the Anomoeans, there is fulfilled in them as never before the prophecy, ‘Of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20:30)

Witnessing such disorders as these and perplexed as to what the cause and source of such evil might be, I at first was in a state, as it were, of thick darkness and, as if on a balance, I veered now this way, now that—attracted now to one man, now to another, under the influence of protracted association with these persons, and then thrust in the other direction, as I bethought myself of the validity of the Holy Scriptures. After a long time spent in this state of indecision and while I was still busily searching for the cause I have mentioned, there came to my mind the Book of Judges which tells how each man did what was right in his own eyes and gives the reason for this in the words: ‘In those days there was no king in Israel.’ (Jags 21:24) With these words in mind, then, I applied also to the present circumstances that explanation which, incredible and frightening as it may be, is quite truly pertinent when it is understood; for never before has there arisen such discord and quarreling as now among the members of the Church in consequence of their turning away from the one, great, and true God, only King of the universe. Each man, indeed, abandons the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and arrogates to himself authority in dealing with certain questions, making his own private rules, and preferring to exercise leadership in opposition to the Lord to being led by the Lord. Reflecting upon this and aghast at the magnitude of the impiety, I pursued my investigation further and became convinced that the aforesaid cause was no less the true source also of secular difficulties. I noticed that as long as the common obedience of the others to some one leader was maintained, all was discipline and harmony in the whole group; but that division and discord and a rivalry of leaders besides proceeded from a lack of leadership. Moreover, I once had observed how even a swarm of bees, in accordance with a law of nature, lives under military discipline and obeys its own king with orderly precision. Many such instances have I witnessed and many others I have heard of, and pereons who make profession of such matters know many more still, so that they can vouch for the truth of what I have said. Now, if good order with its attendant harmony is characteristic of those who look to one source of authority and are subject to one king, then universal disorder and disharmony are a sign that leadership is wanting. By the same token, if we discover in our midst such lack of accord as I have mentioned, both with regard to one another and with respect to the Lord’s commands, it would be an indictment either of our rejection of the true king, according to the Scriptural saying: ‘only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way,’ (2 Thes. 2:7) or of denial of Him according to the Psalmist: “The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God.”(Ps. 13:1) And as a kind of token or proof of this, there follow the words: ‘They are corrupt and are become abominable in their ways.’

…From this and similar evidence I concluded that, in general, as a result of not knowing God, the wickedness of vice produces a reprobate understanding and, in particular, that the disagreement in the world comes from the fact that we have rendered ourselves unworthy of the Lord’s leadership. But, if I should apply myself to an inquiry into such behavior, I should be unable to assess the full extent of its obtuseness, or irrationality, or madness, or—what word I should use I know not, because of the enormity of the evil If even among the very brutes we find mutual harmony preserved by reason of their obedience to a leader, what ought we to say of the great disharmony existing among ourselves and of our insubordination to the Lord’s commands? Must we not think that all these models are proposed to us now by the good God for our instruction and conversion, but that in the great and dreadful day of judgment they will be brought forward by Him unto the shame and condemnation of those who have not profited by the instruction? Already, to be sure, He has said and He ever keeps saying: ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel hath not known me and my people hath not understood/ 12 and many other utterances of this kind are to be found. Consider, further, these words of the Apostle: ‘And if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it 3 ; 13 likewise, that saying: ‘that there might be no schism in the body, but the members might be mutually careful one for another 514 —that is to say, being animated by one soul dwelling therein. Wherefore is it so ordained? In my opinion, so that this conformity and harmony may exist in a pre-eminent degree in the Church of God to which are addressed the words: ‘Now you are the body of Christ and members of member’ 15 —that is, the one and only true Head which is Christ exercises dominion over and unites the members, each with the other, unto harmonious accord. With those among whom harmony is not secured, however, the bond of peace is not preserved, mildness of spirit is not maintained, but there dissension, strife and rivalry are found. It would be a great piece of audacity to call such persons ‘members of Christ’ or to say that they are ruled by Him; but it would be the expression of an honest mind to say openly that the wisdom of the flesh is master there and wields a royal sovereignty, according to the words of the Apostle who says definitively: To whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey,’ (Rom. 6:16)…

In the light of these and many more sayings which I pass over in silence, it is so obviously and undeniably essential for unity to be fully realized in the whole Church at once, according to the will of Christ in the Holy Spirit, and, on the other hand, disobedience to God through mutual discord is so dangerous and fatal (‘for,’ says the Evangelist, ‘he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him’), that I thought the following inference could be drawn: Whatever sins a man is able to gain pardon for from God, or whatever be their number or their gravity, he is, in any case, liable to condemnation for contumacy. Accordingly I find, in taking up the Holy Scripture, that in the Old and New Testament contumacy toward God is clearly condemned, not in consideration of the number or heinousness of transgressions, but in terms of a single violation of any precept whatsoever, and, further, that the judgment of God covers all forms of disobedience…

A very wicked convention, however, leads us astray and a perverted human tradition is the source of great evil for us; I mean that tradition according to which some sins are denounced and others are viewed indifferently. Crimes like homicide and adultery are the object of a violent but feigned indignation, while others, such as anger or reviling or drunkenness or avarice, are not considered deserving of even a simple rebuke. Yet, regarding all these transgressions, Paul, speaking in Christ, also expressed in another place the view noted above, saying: ‘they who do such things are worthy of death.’ And certainly, where every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God is destroyed, and every understanding is brought into captivity unto the obedience of Christ., and every disobedience receives condign punishment, there, nothing is left undestroyed, nothing remitted without penalty, nothing is exempt from the obedience of Christ. Moreover, the Apostle has shown also that all forms of disobedience have a common feature in that they all represent the very greatest impiety. (“On the Judgment of God”, Ludwig Schopp. The Fathers Of The Church A New Translation Saint Basil Ascetical Works Volume 9 [Kindle Locations 572-781]. The Catholic University Of America Press)

 

 

 

 

St. Seraphim on Reading Holy Scripture

seraphim1St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

It is very profitable to occupy oneself with reading the word of God in solitude, and to read the whole Bible intelligently. For one such occupation alone, apart from good deeds, the Lord will not leave a person without His mercy, but will fill him with the gift of understanding. And when a man nourishes his soul with the word of God, there is realized in him an understanding of what is good and what is evil. The reading of the word of God should be performed in solitude, in order that the whole mind of the reader might be plunged into the truths of Holy Scripture, and that from this he might receive warmed and is filled with spiritual gifts, which rejoice the mind and heart more than any word. (Little Russian Philokalia, p. 41)

On the Words of Holy Scripture

saint_leo3Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

[D]issent even in a single word from the teaching of the Gospels and Apostles is forbidden, as is any opinion on Holy Scripture that differs from what the blessed Apostles and our Fathers learnt and taught. (Epistle 82, To Emperor Marcian)

St. Basil the Great on Headcoverings

Basil the GreatSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

[W]omen, who forget the fear of God and scorn the everlasting fire, on that day when they were supposed to be sitting in their homes in remembrance of the resurrection, reflecting on that day when the heavens will be opened and the Judge will appear to us out of the heavens, as well as the trumpets of God, and the resurrection of the dead, and the just judgment, and the repayment to each according to his deeds… instead of pondering these things in their mind, purifying their hearts of wicked thoughts, washing away their past sins with tears, and preparing themselves to meet Christ on that great Day of His Appearing, instead of doing these things they shook off their yoke of slavery to Christ, ripped the veils of modesty from their heads, despised God, despised His angels, acted shamelessly at the sight of every male, tousling their hair, dragging their garments in trains and at the same time tinkling with their feet… (Isa. 3:16 LXX) (On Fasting and Feasts [Popular Patristic Series Book 50, (Kindle Locations 1990-1998]. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

[N]o man ought to pray or prophesy with his head covered; and no woman with uncovered head. (Moralia, Rule 56)

On Those Wiser Than the Fathers

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

If someone reads this (or any other book whatever) not for the sake of spiritual profit but to hunt for phrases to reproach the author so that he might then set himself up in his own opinion as wiser than the author, such a person will never receive any profit of any kind. (Prologue to Four Centuries on Love)

On Satisfying Divine Righteousness

St. Nektarios of Pentapolis 1846-1920

[B]oth the Holy Synods as well as the Holy Fathers — St. Athanasios the Great and Peter Patriarchs of Alexandria, St. Dionysios, St. Gregory Thaumaturgos, St. Basil, the divine Chrysostom, and others — precisely designate the satisfaction required of sinners according to the quantity and degree of sin; because the person who does not obey [these canons] will be sent to the future courthouses to give an account of the improprieties that he has committed, as having rejected the laws of the Church. Therefore, the satisfaction of the insulted Divine Justice is an unavoidable requirement. So then, an urgent need obligates us to hasten towards propitiation of God, especially since we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We should hasten with tears. We should appear before the sympathetic judge and therapist, the affectionate spiritual father, with contrition of heart and compunction. We should pour out our heart wile confessing our sins, so that we may be acquitted from the condemnation of the future tribunal — where everyone who did not give an account of the deeds they committed to the earthly courthouses will be sent — so that we may reconcile with God and become communicants of eternal life. (Repentance and Confession, Part 2: Confession, 4. The Person who has Sinned is Obligated to Satisfy the Divine Righteousness, pp. 48-49)

Note by the translators: They who reject the idea of the necessity of satisfying/compensating Divine Righteousness as a denial of the satisfaction made by our Savior Christ to God the Father, these people neglect that this is in reference to sinful Christians and not to unbelievers. Yes, reconciliation has already been made through Jesus Christ. St. Nicodemos says that “the satisfaction and payment made by our Lord on behalf of our sins was so bountiful and rich that this satisfaction resembles a boundless ocean, while all the sins of humanity — past, present, and future — represent a drop of water.” (Unseen Warfare, p. 207) However, having sinned after baptism, we have “saddened” the Savior Himself, and it is Him Who we are seeking to please through repentance, confession and good works. This is what St. Nektarios is calling “satisfaction of Divine Righteousness”. This is what all the saints have spoken about in their own manner. St. Mark the Ascetic says: “A sinner cannot escape retribution except through repentance appropriate to his offense.” (Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 130) St. Maximos the Confessor says: “No sinner can escape future judgment without experiencing in this life either voluntary hardships or afflictions he has not chosen.” (Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 76) (ibid., p. 44) 

On Defeat Accompanied by Humility

The Evergetinos

In a certain city there lived a bishop who, by the activity of Satan, fell into fornication. A few days later there was a Liturgy in the church, and, without anyone knowing the bishop’s sin, he made a confession in front of all the people, saying: “I have fallen into fornication.” As soon as he uttered these words, he took off his omophorion and placed it on the Holy Table. “I can no longer be a bishop,” he said. In the wake of this scene of sincere confession, the people were all seized with emotion and cried out in lamentation: “Let this sin be upon us; only remain in the episcopate.” “If you want me to remain with you,” answered the bishop, “do what I tell you.” He immediately ordered all the doors of the church to be shut, fell on his face at a side-door, and said to the people: “Anyone who does not tread on me when he leaves the church is not on the side of God.” All of the people did as the bishop told them; that is to say, they trod on him as they departed. As the last person left, a voice was heard from Heaven saying: “I have forgiven the bishop his sin because of his great humility.” (The Evergetinos, Vol. IV of the First Book: Hypothesis XLIV.6)

On the Motivation to do Good

Archbishop Averky of Syracuse 1906-1976

[A]dvocates of autonomous morality attack Christian morality as if it were motivated by primitive moral principles: fear of future torments in hell and the desire for a reward in the future life. The Gospel indeed speaks of rewards that await the righteous and punishments that will befall unrepentant sinners. However, nowhere are these rewards and punishments offered as the main, exclusive motivation for a Christian. In fact, these rewards and punishments are not the motivation but the natural end result of one’s lifestyle. Christ explains that the narrow and sorrowful path of life preached by Him has as its natural end eternal joy, while the broad and easy path, counter to the Gospel, culminates in eternal grief, eternal torment. These are not incentives, not external pedagogical methods to force a person to act in a certain way. They are the natural results of a chosen lifestyle, which He warns against and makes abundantly clear. It is long overdo for us to reject that absurd and even blasphemous notion that floated over to us from Catholicism that God rewards us for good deeds and punishes us for evil ones. God does not want anyone to perish but desires all people to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. A person destroys himself, since evil deeds frequently repeated make a person evil in his nature and incapable of experiencing that light and joy, which is the natural lot of those who are good. The only motive of Christian morality is love, love for God as our Father and Benefactor. St John the Apostle and Evangelist says, We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19). And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2). Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:10–11). If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20)? And this commandment have we from Him: That he who loves God must love his brother also (1 John 4:21). How is our love expressed for God and what is the proof of its sincerity? The Apostle explains: For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

What could possibly be greater than such motivation? On the other hand, what kind of real incentive does autonomous morality offer us? “Good for goodness’ sake”? Such an idea is very obscure. (The Struggle for Virtue: Asceticism in a Modern Secular Society [kindle version])

On When One Can’t Find a Spiritual Father

St. Nil of Sora 1443-1508

Gregory of Sinai and other saints concur. They insist that it is not an easy task to find a skilled and trustworthy guide in this wonderful discipline. For, they explain, such a trustworthy instructor must have much personal experience and be grounded in the wisdom of the holy Writings.

He must also have acquired the gift of spiritual discernment. Even in the time of those saints we are told that such a teacher was not easily found. In our present time of such evil, all the more diligence must be had in seeking such a guide. But if such a teacher cannot be found, they, the saintly Fathers, order us to study the Sacred Scriptures and hear our Lord Himself speaking: “Search the Scriptures and in them you will find eternal life.” For St. Paul the Apostle says that all that was written in the Sacred Scriptures was written for our instruction (cf. Rom 15:4). Thus the saints, who underwent great discipline to control their feelings and labored in mental prayer in the vineyard of their own heart and purified their mind of all passions, have discovered the Lord and attained spiritual wisdom. We, too, who are so enflamed by the fires of our passions, are enjoined to draw the living water from the fountain of the Sacred Scriptures, which have the power to extinguish the fires of our passion and instruct us in the understanding of the truth.

For this reason, even though I am a great sinner and not endowed with wisdom, I also assiduously have applied myself to the holy Writings according to the inspired Fathers’ teachings. Like a slave I was imprisoned by unbecoming passions, which are the basic roots of evil in all things. Thus it is not because I have overcome the passions in a healthy, benevolent silence, but because of my sickness of the passions that I have collected together a little out of what I found from the holy Writings. Like a dog picking up crumbs that fall from the table, so I have gathered together the words of those blessed Fathers and have written all this to be a reminder to us to imitate them, even if it be only in an insignificant way. (The Monastic Rule [Ustav], Introduction)

On the Definition of Struggling

St. Theodore the Studite

Quite simply during these holy days it is possible to see great zeal and attention. But the true subject behaves with obedience not at any particular time, but keeps up the struggle always. What is the struggle? Not to walk according to one’s own will, but to let oneself be ruled by the disposition of the superior. This is better than the other works of zeal and is a crown of martyrdom; except that for you there is also change of diet, multiplication of prostrations and increase of psalmody are in accord with the established tradition from of old. (Catechesis 53)

On How to Know if One Holds the Correct Faith

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

What proof is there that we have a right belief in God, that we have a trustworthy and devout understanding of Him? It is that we confess the same faith as our God-bearing Fathers. (Homily 8, On Faith)

On Children and Servants

Shortly before World War I, a Turk visited Fr. Ieronymos’ humble hermitage. The Turk told the elder that his master, a judge, had sent him to invite the elder to his house.

The elder became a little worried. He was not accustomed to receiving invitations to “social receptions” and his mind began to suspect that he might experience some evil or temptation. However, he prayed to God and followed the Turkish servant.

On their arrival at the judge’s large home, the judge himself welcomed him – with much warmth, as a matter of fact. They sat on a great divan and the judge began the conversation:

“Efendi papa, I am a Turk, a Moslem. From the salary I receive, I keep whatever is necessary for my family’s support, and the rest I spend on alms. I help widows, orphans, the poor; I provide dowries for impoverished young women so that they can get married, I help the sick. I keep the fasts with exactness, I pray and, in general, I try to live a life consistent with my faith. Also, when I sit in judgment, I strive to be just, and never take a person’s position into account, no matter how great he is. What do you say? Are all these things that I do sufficient for me to gain that Paradise that you Christians talk about?

The elder was impressed by all that the Turkish judge told him, and he immediately brought to mind the Roman centurion Cornelius mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. In the Turkish judge and the Roman centurion he perceived two similar lives. He understood that the judge was a just man of noble sentiments. “Perhaps,” thought the elder, “my mission is like that of the Apostle Peter, who instructed the Roman centurion.” The elder determined, therefore, that he would bear witness to his Faith.

“Tell me, efendi cadi [Turkish for judge], do you have children?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you have servants?”

“I have servants also.”

“Which of the two carry out your orders better – your children or your servants?”

“Assuredly, my servants, because my children – with the familiarity that they have toward me — often disobey me and do whatever they wish, whereas my servants always do whatever I tell them.”

“Tell me, I pray thee, efendi, when you die, who will inherit your wealth – your servants, who executed your wishes faithfully, or your children who disobey you?”

“Well, my children, of course. Only they have rights of inheritance, whereas the servants do not.”

“Well then, efendi, what you do is good, but the only thing your good works can is place you in the category of those that are good servants. If, however, you desire to inherit Paradise, the Kingdom of the Heavens, then you have to become a son. And that can be accomplished only through Baptism.”

The Turkish judge was greatly impressed by the elder’s parable. They spoke for a long time after this, and at the end he asked the elder to catechize him and baptize him. And thus, after a little while, the good judge was baptized and became a Christian. (Source)

Translated from “The Elder Hieronymos, the Hesychast of Aegina,” by Peter Botsis, Athens, 1991

On Blind Obedience to Hierarchs

Sts. Makarios of Corinth 1731-1805 and Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

Objection: …[F]irst, that the Canons and the commandments are under the authority of the Hierarchs; secondly, that we should not examine what our Hierarchs, teachers, and spiritual fathers tell us, but just obey them in all things with simplicity; and thirdly, they cite the Apostolic dictum: “Obey them that rule over you, and submit yourselves. (Heb. 13:17)

To the three parts of this objection we have nothing of our own to say, lest we cause confusion and perturbation to some; however, we reckon it harmful to people’s souls to remain completely silent about them. Let us, therefore, see what the Saints say, so that no one might have any grounds for complaining.

…The Divine Chrysostom demonstrates from the Consecration of Hierarchs that Hierarchs are subject to the Divine Canons and commandments:

“Because the High Priest was the head of the people, it was necessary for him, being the head of all, to have on his head a symbol of his authority (for absolute power is intolerable; but since he has the symbol of sovereignty on his head, he shows that he is subject to the law.) The Law ordains that his head not be bare, but covered, so that the head of the people might learn that he has another, greater Head. For this reason, in the Church, at the Ordinations of Priests [St. Nikodemos: ‘Priests’ is written here instead of ‘Hierarchs’, since the author is referring to Priesthood in general; in fact, only Hierarchs carry the Divinely transmitted Scriptures on their head, according to Dionysius the Aeropagite], the Gospel of Christ is placed on the head of the Ordinand, so that he might learn that he is receiving the true tiara of the Gospel and so that he might also learn that, although he is the head of all, he is nonetheless subject to the laws of the Gospel, that he governs all, but is himself governed by the laws, and that, while he enacts all the laws, his powers are defined by the laws. For this reason, one of the ancients (Ignatios was his name), who was adorned by Priesthood and martyrdom, write, in a letter to a certain Hierarch: ‘Let nothing be done without your will; and as for yourself, do nothing without the will of God.’ (Epistle to Polycarp) Therefore, the fact that the Hierarchs has the Gospel placed on his head signifies that he is under authority.” (Homily ‘That the Legislator of the Old and New Testaments is One and the Same’)

To the second point that they mention, that that we should not examine our Hierarchs, teachers, and spiritual fathers, but obey them in all matters, St. Basil the Great replies that “the preacher of the Word must both do and say everything with great circumspection and scrutiny, with a view to pleasing God, since he ought to be scrutinized and approved even by those entrusted to him.” (Morals, Rule 70.37)

And again: “Such hearers as have been instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by their teachers; and they should accept what is in conformity with the Scriptures and reject what is alien to them, and should vehemently shun those who persist in such teachings.” (Morals, Rule 72)

And again: Those who do not have much knowledge of Scripture should recognize the distinguishing characteristics of the Saints by the fruits of the Spirit, receiving those who possess such characteristics and shunning those who do not.” (Morals, 70.2)

…To the third part of the objection the Divine Chrysostom responds: “Anarchy is altogether an evil, the occasion of many calamities, and the source of disorder and confusion […]. However, the disobedience of those who are ruled is no less an evil […]. But perhaps someone will say, there is also a third evil, when the ruler is bad. I myself, too, know it, and it is no small evil, but a far worse evil than anarchy. For it is better to be led by no one than to be led by one who is evil. For the former indeed are oftentimes saved, and oftentimes are in peril, but the latter will be altogether in peril, being led into the pit of perdition. How then does Paul say, ‘Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves (Heb. 13:17)?’ Having said above, ‘whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation’ (Heb. 13:7), he then said, ‘Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves’. ‘What then,’ you say, ‘when he is wicked, should we not obey?’ Wicked? In what sense? If in regard to faith, flee and avoid him, not only if he is a man, but even if he is an angel come down from heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious. And I do not cite this instance from my own experience, but from Divine Scripture. For hear Christ saying, ‘The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ Seat.’ (Mat. 23:2) Having previously said many fearful things about them, He then says, ‘They sit in Moses’ Seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, […] do; but do not ye after their works.’ (Mat. 23:2-3) What he means is that they have the office, but are of unclean life; but pay attention not to their life, but to their words. For no one would be harmed on account of their characters. How is this? Both because their characters are manifest to all, and also because even if one of them were ten thousand times as wicked he would never teach what is wicked. But with regard to faith, the evil is not manifest to all, and the wicked will ruler will not forbear from teaching false doctrines. For the saying, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged’ (Mat. 7:1) pertains to life, not to faith […]. Paul, however, previously commended them [he testified, that is, that the Shepherds were in every way upright], and then he says: ‘Obey them that have the rule over you'”. (Homily XXXIV On Hebrews)

This is what the Saints say. But as for us, brethren, since the Lord has called us to be at peace, we should submit to our Hierarchs, spiritual fathers, and teachers on account of the dignity that they have before God. But if any one of them does something irrational or impedes us from doing some God-pleasing deed, let us not cease from beseeching and imploring until we persuade him that the will of God should be done, in order that peace might reign between us; that concord and harmony might prevail; that love might be shown towards Shepherds and sheep, towards Hierarchs and Christians, towards Priests and lay people, towards superiors and subordinates; and that scandals, disturbances, schisms, and divisions might remain far from us. For such things are destructive of our souls, our homes, our Churches, and of every community and nation. In brief, let peace reign, in order that might all be one body and one spirit, all with one hope even as we were called, (cf. Eph. 4:4) and that the God of peace might be with us. (Concerning Frequent Communion, Objection 12. Manna from Athos: The Issue of Frquent Communion on the Holy Mountain in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries by Hieromonk Patapios and Archbishop Chrysostomos, p. 167-171)

On the Fate of True Christians

St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

Elijah the Tishbite, in complaining to the Lord against Israel that in its entirety it had bent the knee to Baal, said in prayer that he alone, Elijah, had remained faithful to the Lord, but they were already seeking to take away his soul also… And what, Batisuhka, did the Lord answer him? — I have left seven thousand men in Israel who have not bent the knee to Baal (1 Kgs. 19:18). And so, if in the kingdom of Israel, which had fallen away from the kingdom of Judea which was faithful to God and had become completely corrupted, there remained still seven thousand men faithful to the Lord, then what shall we say of Russia? I suppose that in the kingdom of Israel at that time there were no more than three million people. And how many, Batiushka, are there now in our Russia?

I replied: “About sixty million.” And he continued.

“Twenty times more. Then judge for yourself how many we have now who are still faithful to God! So it is, Batiushka, so it is: ‘Whom He did foreknow, He also did forechoose, and whom He did forechoose, He also did predestinate; and whom He did predestinate, He will watch over and glorify. And so, what is there for us to be downcast about!… God is with us! (cf. Rom. 8:29-31). He that trusteth in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion… and the Lord is round about His people (Ps. 124:1-2). The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth even forevermore; …the sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night (Ps. 120:6-8).

And then I asked him what this means, and why he was saying this to me.

“Because,” Batiushka Seraphim replied, “in this same way the Lord will preserve, as the apple of His eye, His people, that is, Orthodox Christians who love Him and serve Him with all their heart and all their mind, both in word and deed, day and night. And such are they who preserve entirely all the rules, dogmas, and traditions of our Eastern Orthodox Church, and who with their lips confess the piety which has been handed down by the Church, and who act in very deed in all circumstances of life according to the holy commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Little Russian Philokalia, pp. 118-119. “Concerning the Fate of True Christians”, written down by Motovilov on the night of October 26-27, 1844)

On the Danger of Not Following the Contemporary Saints

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

[T]he Saints — those who appear from generation to generation, from time to time, following the Saints who preceded them — become linked with their predecessors through obedience to the divine commandments, and endowed with divine grace, become filled with the same light. In such a sequence all of them together form a kind of golden chain, each Saint being a separate link in this chain, joined to the first by faith, right actions and love; a chain which has its strength in God and can hardly be broken. A man who does not express a desire to link himself to the latest of the saints (in time) in all love and humility owing to a certain distrust in himself, will never be linked to the preceding saints and will not be admitted to their succession, even though he thinks he possesses all possible faith and love for God and for all His saints. He will be cast out of their midst, as one who refused to take humbly the place allotted to him by God before all time, and to link himself to that latest saint (in time) as God had disposed. (Practical and Theological Precepts, 157-158. Writings From the Philokalia: On the Prayer of the Heart)

On the Authority of Women in the Churches

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

[T]hose things which I have already mentioned might easily be performed by many even of those who are under authority, women as well as men; but when one is required to preside over the Church, and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also; and we must bring forward those who to a large extent surpass all others, and soar as much above them in excellence of spirit as Saul overtopped the whole Hebrew nation in bodily stature: or rather far more. (1 Sam. 10:23) For in this case let me not take the height of shoulders as the standard of inquiry; but let the distinction between the pastor and his charge be as great as that between rational man and irrational creatures, not to say even greater, inasmuch as the risk is concerned with things of far greater importance. (On the Priesthood Bk. 2.2)

The divine law indeed has excluded women from the ministry, but they endeavor to thrust themselves into it; and since they can effect nothing of themselves, they do all through the agency of others; and they have become invested with so much power that they can appoint or eject priests at their will: things in fact are turned upside down, and the proverbial saying may be seen realized— “The ruled lead the rulers”; and would that it were men who do this instead of women, who have not received a commission to teach. Why do I say teach? For the blessed Paul did not suffer them even to speak in the church. But I have heard someone say that they have obtained such a large privilege of free speech, as even to rebuke the prelates of the churches, and censure them more severely than masters do their own domestics. (On the Priesthood Bk. 3.9)

On Trinitization and the Divine Commandments

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

For He is present in every commandment through His grace-filled power (“The Lord is hidden in His commandments,” writes St. Mark the Ascetic), and He helps every struggler to keep the commandments. At the same time, the evangelic principle of theanthropic cooperation is kept; the God-man collaborates with man, while man remains an independent person, even though his entire being is in the Lord Christ, even though he dwelleth in Him. In the same way, the Lord Christ dwelleth in man, and does not lose the fullness of His person. …This means the Christian is never alone; he is the dwelling place and workshop of the Thrice-Holy Godhead. Everything leads to this. Keeping the commandments Trinitizes man, because this Christianizes and Spiritualizes him. A Christian’s life is one unceasing podvig of Christianization, Spiritualization, Divinization – i.e. Trinitization. The entire Christian life is one unceasing, and indivisible struggle to become like Christ, to establish the Spirit in man: theosis = establishing the Trinity within oneself. (Commentary on the Epistles of St. John the Theologian)

On What Sort of Scandals the Orthodox Should Disregard

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

Yes, I know that there is a kind of scandal that one should disregard. And what is this? Listen. When you perform one of God’s commandments or observe the divine and sacred Canons of the Holy Apostles or of the Ecumenical and local Synods, or the Traditions of the Church, and, quite simply when you strive to do the will of God, and another person is scandalized on this account, then you should disregard that “scandal” and carry out the commandment of God and observe the divine and sacred Canons, saying to those who are scandalized and would hinder you what the Apostles said to the Jews: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and again: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4:19). For if, on account of the potential scandal, and out of fear and a desire to please men, you contemn the commandment and the will of God and the divine canons, putting men before God and the love of men before the love of God, you become man-pleasing rather than God-pleasing. You sin and grieve God and the Saints rather than grieving men, fearing men more than God. Who can fail to see how contrary all of this is to the divine Scriptures and to your salvation? “If a man should at all sin against another, then they shall pray for him to the Lord; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?” (1 Kgs. 2:25) And again: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both souls and body in Hell.” (Mat. 10:28)

Hence, St. Basil the Great says that one should not impede him who does the will of God, whether he does so according to God’s commandment, or according to some other purpose, in conformity with the commandment. Yet neither should he who does God’s will obey those who impede him, even if they are friends, but abide by the judgment and decision that he has made:

One ought not to impede him who does the will of God, whether he is following the commandment at God’s behest or in accordance with reason; neither should he who does God’s will put up with those who hinder him, even if they are friends, but should abide by his decision. (Moral Rules, Rule XIX, PG, Vol. xxxi, col. 733A) (On Christian Morality: Discourse X, Part 2.)

On the Holy Mystery of the Divine Commandments

Jn. 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

1 Jn. 3:24 Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

God the Word of God the Father is mystically present in each of His own commandments. God the Father is by nature completely inseparable in the whole of His Word. Therefore the one who receives the divine commandment and acclomplishes it receives in it the Word of God. The one who has received the Word through the commandments has received along with Him the Father Who is in Him by nature. For the Scripture says, “Amen I say to you, the one who receives the one who sent me.” Therefore the one who has accepted a commandment and performed it has received in mystical possession the Holy Trinity. (Chapters on Knowledge, Second Century 71)

On the Patristic Mindset

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

In no way will I say anything of my own, but what I learned from the Fathers, altering nothing of their teaching. (Letter 15; PG 91.544.)

St. John Climacus on Obedience

St. John Climacus ca. 579-649

Obedience is the burial place of the will and the resurrection of lowliness. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 4: On Obedience)

St. Pachomius on Odedience

St. Pachomius the Great ca. 292-346

If you cannot get along alone, join another who is living according to the Gospel of Christ, and you will make progress with him. Either listen, or submit to one who listens; either be strong and be called Elijah, or obey the strong and be called Elisha. For obeying Elijah, Elisha received a double share of Elijah’s spirit. (The Instructions of Saint Pachomius, 17)

On Those Who Don’t Need the Holy Fathers

Abba Dorotheus of Gaza ca. 505-565

I knew a man who came to a miserable state. From the beginning, if one of his brethren said anything to him, he used to say, ‘Who is he? He is not Zosimas or one of his lot.’ Then he began to cheapen them and to say, ‘There is no one of any importance but Macarius,’ and after a little while, to say, ‘Who is Macarius, anyway? There is no one any good, except perhaps Basil or Gregory.’ And then in a short while he began to debunk them, saying, Who is Basil? Who is Gregory? There is no one who counts but Peter and Paul.’ And I said to him, ‘Really, brother, you are going to despise these soon.’ And believe me, after a short time he began saying, ‘Who is Paul? Who is Peter? There is no one but the Holy Trinity!’ And so at last he lifted himself up against God—and there he gave up! (Discourses and Sayings)

On Honoring Dishonorable Priests

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

He that honors the Priest, will honor God also; and he who has learned to despise the Priest, will in process of time insult God. He that receives you, He says, receives Me. Matt. 10:40 Hold my priests in honor Sirach 7:31, He says. The Jews learned to despise God, because they despised Moses, and would have stoned him. For when a man is piously disposed towards thePriest, he is much more so towards God. And even if the Priest be wicked, God seeing that you respect him, though unworthy of honor, through reverence to Him, will Himself reward you. For if he that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward Matt. 10:41; then he who honors and submits and gives way to the Priest shall certainly be rewarded. For if in the case of hospitality, when you know not the guest, you receive so high a recompense, much more will you be requited, if you obey him whom He requires you to obey. The Scribes and Pharisees, He says, sit in Moses’ seat; all therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do, but do not do after their works. Matt. 23:2-3 Do you not know what the Priest is? He is an Angel of the Lord. Are they his own words that he speaks? If you despise him, you despise not him, but God that ordained him. But how does it appear, you ask, that he is ordained of God? Nay, if you suppose it otherwise, your hope is rendered vain. For if God works nothing through his means, thou neither hast any Laver, nor art partaker of the Mysteries, nor of the benefit of Blessings; you are therefore not a Christian. What then, you say, does God ordain all, even the unworthy? God indeed does not ordain all, but He works through all, though they be themselves unworthy, that the people may be saved. For if He spoke, for the sake of the people, by an ass, and by Balaam, a most wicked man, much more will He speak by the mouth of the Priest. What indeed will not God do or say for our salvation? By whom does He not act? For if He wrought through Judas and those other that prophesied, to whom He will say, I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of iniquity Matt. 7:22-23; and if others cast out devils Psa. 6:8; will He not much more work through the Priests? Since if we were to make inquisition into the lives of our rulers, we should then become the ordainers of our own teachers, and all would be confusion; the feet would be uppermost, the head below. Hear Paul saying, But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment. 1 Cor. 4:3 And again, Why do you judge your brother? Rom. 14:10 For if we may not judge our brother, much less our teacher. If God commands this indeed, you do well, and sinnest if you do it not; but if the contrary, dare not do it, nor attempt to go beyond the lines that are marked out. After Aaron had made the golden calf, Corah, Dathan, and Abiram raised an insurrection against him. And did they not perish? Let each attend to his own department. For if he teach perverted doctrine, though he be an Angel, obey him not; but if he teach the truth, take heed not to his life, but to his words. You have Paul to instruct you in what is right both by words and works. But you say, He gives not to the poor, he does not govern well. Whence do you know this? Blame not, before you are informed. Be afraid of the great account. Many judgments are formed upon mere opinion. Imitate your Lord, who said, I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, and if not, I will know. Gen. 18:21 But if you have enquired, and informed yourself, and seen; yet await the Judge, and usurp not the office of Christ. To Him it belongs, and not to you, to make this inquisition. You are an inferior servant, not a master. You are a sheep, be not curious concerning the shepherd, lest you have to give account of your accusations against him. But you say, How does he teach me that which he does not practice himself? It is not he that speaks to you. If it be he whom you obey, you have no reward. It is Christ that thus admonishes you. And what do I say? You ought not to obey even Paul, if he speaks of himself, or anything human, but the Apostle, that has Christ speaking in him. Let not us judge one another’s conduct, but each his own. Examine your own life.

But you say, He ought to be better than I. Wherefore? Because he is a Priest. And is he not superior to you in his labors, his dangers, his anxious conflicts and troubles? But if he is not better, ought thou therefore to destroy yourself? These are the words of arrogance. For how is he not better than yourself? He steals, you say, and commits sacrilege! How do you know this? Why do you cast yourself down a precipice? If you should hear it said that such an one has a purple robe, though you knew it to be true, and couldest convict him, you decline to do it, and pretend ignorance, not being willing to run into unnecessary danger. But in this case you are so far from being backward, that even without cause you expose yourself to the danger. Nor think you are not responsible for these words. Hear what Christ says, Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. Matt.12:36 And do you think yourself better than another, and do you not groan, and beat your breast, and bow down your head, and imitate the Publican?

And then you destroy yourself, though thou be better. Be silent, that you cease not to be better. If you speak of it, you have done away the merit; if you think it, I do not say so; if you dost not think it, you have added much. For if a notorious sinner, when he confessed, went home justified, he who is a sinner in a less degree, and is conscious of it, how will he not be rewarded? Examine your own life. Thou dost not steal; but you are rapacious, and overbearing, and guilty of many other such things. I say not this to defend theft; God forbid! Deeply lament if there is any one really guilty of it, but I do not believe it. How great an evil is sacrilege, it is impossible to say. But I spare you. For I would not that our virtue should be rendered vain by accusing others. What was worse than the Publican? For it is true that he was a publican, and guilty of many offenses, yet because the Pharisee only said, I am not as this publican, he destroyed all his merit. I am not, you say, like this sacrilegious Priest. And dost not thou make all in vain?

This I am compelled to say, and to enlarge upon in my discourse, not so much because I am concerned for them, but because I fear for you, lest you should render your virtue vain by this boasting of yourselves, and condemnation of others. For hear the exhortation of Paul, Let every one prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Gal. 6:4

If you had a wound, tell me, and should go to a physician, would you stay him from salving and dressing your own wound, and be curious to enquire whether the physician had a wound, or not? And if he had, would you mind it? Or because he had it, would you forbear dressing your own, and say, A physician ought to be in sound health, and since he is not so, I shall let my wound go uncured? For will it be any palliation for him that is under rule, that his Priest is wicked? By no means. He will suffer the destinedpunishment, and you too will meet with that which is your due. For the Teacher now only fills a place. For it is written, They shall all be taught of God. Jn. 6:45; Isa. 54:13 Neither shall they say, Know the Lord. For all shall know Me from the least to the greatest. Jer. 31:34 Why then, you will say, does he preside? Why is he set over us? I beseech you, let us not speak ill of our teachers, nor call them to so strict an account, lest we bring evil upon ourselves. Let us examine ourselves, and we shall not speak ill of others. Let us reverence that day, on which heenlightened us. He who has a father, whatever faults he has, conceals them all. For it is said, Glory not in the dishonor of your father; for your father’s dishonor is no glory unto you. And if his understanding fail, have patience with him. Sirach 3:10-12 And if this be said of our natural fathers, much more of our spiritual fathers. Reverence him, in that he every day ministers to you, causes the Scriptures to be read, sets the house in order for you, watches for you, prays for you, stands imploring God on your behalf, offers supplications for you, for you is all his worship.Reverence all this, think of this, and approach him with pious respect. Say not, he is wicked. What of that? He that is not wicked, does he of himself bestow upon you these great benefits? By no means. Everything works according to your faith. Not even the righteous man can benefit you, if you are unfaithful, nor the unrighteous harm you, if you are faithful. God, when He would save His people, wrought for the ark by oxen. 1 Sam. 6:12 Is it the good life or the virtue of the Priest that confers so much on you? The gifts which God bestows are not such as to be effects of the virtue of the Priest. All is of grace. His part is but to open his mouth, while God works all: the Priest only performs a symbol. Consider how wide was the distance between John and Jesus. Hear John saying, I have need to be baptized by You Matt. 3:14, and, Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. Jn. 1:27 Yet notwithstanding this difference, the Spirit descended. Which John had not. For of His fullness, it is said, we all have received. Jn. 1:16Yet nevertheless, It descended not till He was baptized. But neither was it John who caused It to descend. Why then is this done? That you may learn that the Priest performs a symbol. No man differs so widely from another man, asJohn from Jesus, and yet with him the Spirit descended, that we may learn, that it is God who works all, that all is God’s doing. I am about to say what may appear strange, but be not astonished nor startled at it. The Offering is the same, whether a common man, or Paul or Peter offer it. It is the same which Christ gave to His disciples, and which the Priests now minister. This is nowise inferior to that, because it is not men that sanctify even this, but the Same who sanctified the one sanctifies the other also. For as the words which God spoke are the same which the Priest now utters, so is the Offering the same, and the Baptism, that which He gave. Thus the whole is of faith. The Spirit immediately fell upon Cornelius, because he had previously fulfilled his part, and contributed his faith. And this is His Body, as well as that. And he who thinks the one inferior to the other, knows not that Christ even now is present, even now operates. Knowing therefore these things, which we have not said without reason, but that we may conform your minds in what is right, and render you more secure for the future, keep carefully in mind what has been spoken. For if we are always hearers, and never doers, we shall reap no advantage from what is said. Let us therefore attend diligently to the things spoken. Let us imprint them upon our minds. Let us have them ever engraved upon our consciences, and let us continually ascribe glory to theFather, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. (Homily 2 on 2nd Timothy)

On Rational Sheep

Apostolic Constitutions ca. 1st-4th cent.

Hear, O you bishops; and hear, O you of the laity, how God speaks: I will judge between ram and ram, and between sheep and sheep. And He says to the shepherds: You shall be judged for your unskilfulness, and for destroying the sheep. That is, I will judge between one bishop and another, and between one lay person and another, and between one ruler and another (for these sheep and these rams are not irrational, but rational creatures): lest at any time a lay person should say, I am a sheep and not a shepherd, and I am not concerned for myself; let the shepherd look to that, for he alone will be required to give an account for me. For as that sheep that will not follow its good shepherd is exposed to the wolves, to its destruction; so that which follows a bad shepherd is also exposed to unavoidable death, since his shepherd will devour him. Wherefore care must be had to avoid destructive shepherds. (Bk. 2.19)

St. Meletios of Antioch died ca. 381

Do not show obedience to bishops who exhort you to do and to say and to believe in things which are not to your benefit. What pious man would hold his tongue? Who would remain completely calm? In fact, silence equates to consent. This was clearly indicated by John the Baptist, and by the Maccabees through their legislation, who went as far as risking death, without overlooking the fact that the law is susceptible to changes. (Andrei Psarev, The Limits of Non-conformity in the Byzantine Church [861-1300]: A Study of Canon 15 of the First and Second Council in Constantinople [861] pg. 13)

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

Can a priest be a heretic? The wolf may escape and get away, but do not be fooled and approach it, and even if it appears to be wagging its tail gently, avoid coming into contact with it, as it is like poison from a snake. (ibid., pg. 13)

On Being Taught by Spiritual Fathers

St. Moses the Ethiopian 330-405

…[S]o far has this opinion been shown to be pleasing to God that we see that this system not without reason finds a place in Holy Scripture, so that the Lord would not of Himself instruct by the method of a Divine colloquy the lad Samuel, when chosen for judgment, but suffered him to run once or twice to the old man, and willed that one whom He was calling to converse with Him should be taught even by one who had offended God, as he was an old man, and preferred that he whom He had deemed worthy to be called by Him should be trained by the Elder in order to test the humility of him who was called to a Divine office, and to set an example to the younger men by the manner of his subjection.

And when Christ in His own Person called and addressed Paul, although He might have opened out to him at once the way of perfection, yet He chose rather to direct him to Ananias and commanded him to learn the way of truth from him, saying: “Arise and go into the city and there it shall be told thee what thou oughtest to do.” (Acts 9:6)  So He sends him to an older man, and thinks good to have him instructed by his teaching rather than His own, lest what might have been rightly done in the case of Paul might set a bad example of self-sufficiency, if each one were to persuade himself that he also ought in like manner to be trained by the government and teaching of God alone rather than by the instruction of the Elders. And this self-sufficiency the apostle himself teaches, not only by his letters but by his acts and deeds, ought to be shunned with all possible care, as he says that he went up to Jerusalem solely for this reason; viz., to communicate in a private and informal conference with his co-apostles and those who were before him that Gospel which he preached to the Gentiles, the grace of the Holy Spirit accompanying him with powerful signs and wonders: as he says “And I communicated with them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles lest perhaps I had run or should run in vain.” (Gal. 2:2) Who then is so self-sufficient and blind as to dare to trust in his own judgment and discretion when the chosen vessel confesses that he had need of conference with his fellow apostles. Whence we clearly see that the Lord does not Himself show the way of perfection to anyone who having the opportunity of learning despises the teaching and training of the Elders, paying no heed to that saying which ought most carefully to be observed: “Ask thy father and he will show it to thee: thine Elders and they will tell thee.” (Deut. 32:7) (St. John Cassian Conferences 2.14-15)

On Obedience

St. Paisius Velichkovsky 1722-1794

Divine obedience is something so necessary for the true pleasing Of God, that without it it is not at all possible to please God. Therefore, all-holy obedience was planted by God in three places, in the heavens, in paradise, and on earth: in the heavens, among the heavenly powers; in paradise, in the first-created men; and on earth, in the holy disciples and apostles of the Lord. In all three of these places there appeared the fruit of most blessed obedience, and also the fruit of thrice-cursed disobedience.

In the heavens, all the heavenly powers, remaining by their good will in obedience to God, were vouchsafed, being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, to remain eternally in Him. But the devil, being from the angelic order, by his own free will fell away from obedience, and becoming proud, was cast down from the heavens together with all the fallen-away powers of the same angelic order who freely obeyed his impious counsel; being deprived of the divine light, they became darkness by their own will, and were made eternally enemies of God and of the salvation of right-believing Christians. Behold how the fruit both of obedience and of disobedience was manifested in the heavens.

In paradise, as long as the first-created ones remained in true obedience to God, they took sweet enjoyment in beholding God face to face and in multiform gifts of the Holy Spirit. But when of their own free will, obeying the counsel of the devil and falling away from obedience, they became proud, desiring to be equal to God, then they received the sentence of death from God were banished from paradise, and were the cause of death for the whole human race. And if the Son of God by His obedience unto death to God the Father had not destroyed the disobedience of Adam, there would have remained from the human race no hope at all for salvation from death and eternal perdition. Behold how in paradise, in the first-created ones, the fruit of obedience and of disobedience was shown.

On earth, Christ the Son of God, having come down from heaven not to do His own will but the will of the Father Who sent Him, to Whom He was obedient unto death, the death of the Cross, planted His Divine obedience in His holy disciples and Apostles. Remaining in it even unto death, they were enabled by their preaching to bring the world to the knowledge of God, and now with Christ their Lord and Teacher they reign in the heavens. But the thrice-cursed Judas, who fell away from obedience and in place of the Lord obeyed in all things the devil, fell into despair, hanged himself, and perished eternally with soul and body. Behold how on earth the fruit of obedience and of disobedience was manifested.

The divine obedience, planted by Christ God Himself in His holy disciples, passed over to the holy angelic monastic order, in  which many shone forth like the sun in holy obedience and pleased God perfectly. And, indeed, the whole monastic order is founded upon holy obedience; and in ancient times, whether in the common life, or in the royal way (that is, where two or three are together), or in the deserts, for the greater part they began their life with obedience, and thus by God’s grace they escaped demonic deceptions. (To Maria Petrovna Protasieva. Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky pp. 206-208)

Orthodoxy and the Ten Commandments

From the Catechism of St. Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow 1821 – 1867

On the Law of God and the Commandments.

485. What means have we to know good works from bad?

The inward law of God, or the witness of our conscience, and the outward law of God, or God’s commandments.

486. Does holy Scripture speak of the inward law of God?

The Apostle Paul says of the heathen: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. Rom. ii. 15.

487. If there is in man’s heart an inward law, why was the outward given?

It was given because men obeyed not the inward law, but led carnal and sinful lives, and stifled within themselves the voice of the spiritual law, so that it was necessary to put them in mind of it outwardly through the Commandments. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions.Gal. iii. 19.

488. When and how was God’s outward law given to men?

When the Hebrew people, descended from Abraham, had been miraculously delivered from bondage in Egypt, on their way to the promised land, in the desert, on Mount Sinai, God manifested his presence in fire and clouds, and gave them the law, by the hand of Moses, their leader.

489. Which are the chief and general commandments of this law?

The following ten, which were written on two tables of stone:

1. I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt have none other gods beside me.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth: thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath to the Lord thy God.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long upon the earth.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any of his cattle, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s. Exod. xx. 1-17Deut. v. 6-21.

490. You said that these Commandments were given to the people of Israel: must we, then, also walk by them?

We must: for they are in substance the same law which, in the words of St. Paul, has been written in the hearts of all men, that all should walk by it.

491. Did Jesus Christ teach men to walk by the Ten Commandments?

He bade men, if they would attain to everlasting life, to keep the Commandments and taught us to understand and fulfill them more perfectly than had been done before he came. Matt xix. 17, and v.

On the Division of the Commandments into Two Tables.

492. What means the division of the Ten Commandments into two tables?

This: that they contain two kinds of love–love to God, and love to our neighbor; and prescribe two corresponding kinds of duties.

493. Has not Jesus Christ said something of this?

When asked, Which is the great commandment in the law? he replied: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matt. xxii. 36-40.

494. Are all men our neighbors?

Yes, all; because all are the creation of one God, and have come from one man: but our neighbors in faith are doubly neighbors to us, as being children of one heavenly Father by faith in Jesus Christ.

495. But why is there no commandment of love to ourselves?

Because we love ourselves naturally, and without any commandment. No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it. Eph. v. 29.

496. What relative order should there be in our love to God, our neighbor, and ourselves?

We should love ourselves not for our own, but for God’s sake, and partly also for the sake of our neighbors; we should love our neighbor for the sake of God; but we should love God for himself, and above all. Love of self should be sacrificed to the love of our neighbor; but both should be sacrificed to the love of God.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John xv. 13.

He that loveth father or mother more than me, saith Jesus Christ, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. Matt. x. 37.

497. If the whole law is contained in two commandments, why are they divided into ten?

In order the more clearly to set forth our duties towards God, and towards our neighbor.

498. In which of the Ten Commandments are we taught our duties towards God?

In the first four.

499. What are these duties?

In the first commandment we are taught to know and worship the true God.

In the second, to abstain from false worship.

In the third, not to sin against God’s worship even by word.

In the fourth, to keep a certain order in the time and acts of God’s worship.

500. In which of the Ten Commandments are we taught our duties towards our neighbor?

In the last six.

501. What are these duties?

In the fifth commandment we are taught to love and honor those of our neighbors who are nearest to us, beginning with our parents. In the sixth, not to hurt the life of our neighbor. In the seventh, not to hurt the purity of his morals. In the eighth, not to hurt his property. In the ninth, not to hurt him by word. In the tenth, not to wish to hurt him.

502. Do not the Ten Commandments include also our duties towards ourselves?

Yes; these duties are implied in the commandments of the second table relating to our neighbors; for our duty is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

On the First Commandment.

503. What mean these words, I am the Lord thy God?

By these words God, as it were, points himself out to man, and so commands him to know the Lord his God.

504. What particular duties may we deduce from the commandment to know God?

1. We must seek to learn the knowledge of God, as being the most essential of all knowledge.

2. We must listen attentively to instructions on God and on his works in church, and to religious conversations on the same at home.

3. We must read or hear read books of instruction in the knowledge of God; and in the first place,holy Scripture; secondly, the writings of the holy Fathers.

505. What are we taught in the words, Thou shalt have none other gods but me?

We are taught to turn and cleave to the one true God, or, in other words, devoutly to worshiphim.

506. What duties are there which refer to the inward worship of God?

1. To believe in God.

2. To walk before God; that is, to be ever mindful of him, and in all things to walk circumspectly, because he seeth not only our actions, but even our most secret thoughts.

3. To fear God, or stand in awe of him; that is, to think the anger of our heavenly Father the greatest ill that can befall us, and therefore strive not to offend him.

4. To trust in God.

5. To love God.

6. To obey God; that is, to be ever ready to do what he commands, and not to murmur when he deals with us otherwise than we could desire.

7. To adore God, as the Supreme Being.

8. To glorify God, as being all-perfect.

9. To give thanks to God, as our Creator, Provident Sustainer, and Saviour.

10. To call upon God, as our all-good and almighty helper, in every good work which we undertake.

507. What duties are there which refer to the outward worship of God?

1. To confess God; that is, to acknowledge that he is our God, and not deny him, although for confessing him we may have to suffer, or even die.

2. To take part in the public divine service enjoined by God and appointed by the Orthodox Church.

508. In order the more exactly to understand and keep the first commandment, we must know farther what sins there may be against it.

1. Atheism; when men, whom the Psalmist justly calls fools, wishing to rid themselves of the fear of God’s judgment, say in their heart, There is no God. Psalm xiv. 1.

2. Polytheism; when, instead of the one true God, men acknowledge a number of false deities.

3. Infidelity; when men, who admit the existence of God, disbelieve his providence and his revelation.

4. Heresy; when people mix with the doctrine of the faith opinions contrary to divine truth.

5. Schism; that is, willful departure from the unity of divine worship, and from the Orthodox Catholic Church of God.

6. Apostasy; when any deny the true faith from fear of man, or for worldly advantage.

7. Despair; when men give up all hope of obtaining from God grace and salvation.

8. Sorcery; when men, leaving faith in the power of God, put their trust in secret and, for the most part, evil powers of creatures, especially of evil spirits, and seek to work by their means.

9. Superstition; when men put faith in any common thing as if it had divine power, and trust in it instead of trusting in God, or fear it instead of fearing God; as, for instance, when they put faith in an old book, and think they can be saved by none other, and must not use a new one, though the new book contain the very same doctrine, and the very same form of divine service.

10. Sloth, in respect of learning religion, or in respect of prayer, and the public service of God.

11. Love of the creature more than of God.

12. Men-pleasing; when they seek to please men, so as for this to be careless of pleasing God.

13. Trusting in man; when any one trusts in his own means and strength, or in the means and strength of others, and not in the mercy and help of God,

509. Why must we think that men-pleasing and trusting in man are against the first commandment?

Because the man, whom we please, or in whom we trust, so as to forget God, is in some sort to us another god, in place of the true God.

510. How does holy Scripture speak of men-pleasing?

The Apostle Paul says: For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Gal. i. 10.

511. How does holy Scripture speak of trusting in man?

Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. Jer. xvii. 5.

512. In order to succeed the better in fulfilling his duties to God, how must a man act by himself?

He must deny himself.

Whosoever will come after me, says Jesus Christ, let him deny himself. Mark viii. 34.

513. What is it to deny one’s self?

Basil the Great explains it thus: He denies himself who puts off the old man with his deeds, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; who renounces also all worldly affections, which can hinder his intention of godliness. Perfect self-denial consists in this, that he cease to have any affection even for life itself, and bear the judgment of death in himself, that he may not trust in himself. (Can. Long. Resp. 8.)

514. What consolation is there for him who, by denying himself, loses many natural gratifications?

The consolation of grace: a divine consolation, which even sufferings themselves can not impair.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 2 Cor. i. 5.

515. If the first commandment teaches us to worship religiously God alone, how does it agree with this commandment to honor angels and holy men?

To pay them due and rightful honor is altogether agreeable to this commandment; because in them we honor the grace of God, which dwells and works in them, and through them seek help from God.

On the Second Commandment.

516. What is a graven image, as spoken of in the second commandment?

The commandment itself explains that a graven image, or idol, is the likeness of some creature in heaven, or earth, or in the waters, which men bow down to and serve instead of God their Maker.

517. What is forbidden, then, by the second commandment?

We are forbidden to bow down to graven images or idols, as to supposed deities, or as to likenesses of false gods.

518. Are we not hereby forbidden to have any sacred representations whatever?

By no means. This very plainly appears from hence, that the same Moses through whom God gave the commandment against graven images, received at the same time from God an order to place in the tabernacle, or movable temple of the Israelites, sacred representations of Cherubim in gold, and to place them, too, in that inner part of the temple to which the people turned for the worship of God.

519. Why is this example worthy of remark for the Orthodox Christian Church?

Because it illustrates her use of holy icons.

520. What is an icon?

The word is Greek, and means, an image or representation. In the Orthodox Church this name designates sacred representations of our Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, his immaculate Mother, and his saints.

521. Is the use of holy icons agreeable to the second commandment?

It would then, and then only, be otherwise, if any one were to make gods of them; but it is not in the least contrary to this commandment to honor icons as sacred representations, and to use them for the religious remembrance of God’s works and of his saints; for when thus used icons are books, written with the forms of persons and things instead of letters. (See Greg. Magn. lib. ix. Ep. 9, ad Seren. Episc.)

522. What disposition of mind should we have when we reverence the icons?

While we look on them with our eyes, we should mentally look to God and to the saints, who are represented on them.

523. What general name is there for sin against the second commandment?

Idolatry.

524. Are there not also other sins against this commandment? Besides gross idolatry there is yet another sort more subtle, to which belong–

1. Covetousness.

2. Belly-service or sensuality, gluttony, and drunkenness.

3. Pride, to which belongs likewise vanity.

525. Why is covetousness referred to idolatry?

The Apostle Paul expressly says that covetousness is idolatry (Col. iii. 5); because the covetous man serves riches rather than God.

526. If the second commandment forbid the love of gain, what contrary duties does it thereby necessarily enjoin?

Those of contentedness and liberality.

527. Why is belly-service referred to idolatry?

Because belly-servers set sensual gratification above every thing, and therefore the Apostle Paul says that their god is their belly; or, in other words, that the belly is their idol. Phil. iii. 19.

528. If the second commandment forbid belly-service, what contrary duties does it thereby enjoin?

Those of temperance and fasting.

529. Why are pride and vanity referred to idolatry?

Because the proud man values above every thing his own abilities and excellences, and so they are his idol; the vain man wishes further that others also should worship the same idol. These proud and vain dispositions were exemplified even sensibly in Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who first set up for himself a golden idol, and then ordered all to worship it. Dan. iii.

530. Is there not still another vice which is near to idolatry?

Such a vice is hypocrisy; when a man uses the outward acts of religion, as fasting, and the strict observance of ceremonies, in order to obtain respect from the people, without thinking of the inward amendment of his heart. Matt. vi. 5, 6, 7.

531. If the second commandment forbid pride, vanity, and hypocrisy, what contrary duties does it thereby enjoin?

Those of humility, and doing good in secret.

On the Third Commandment.

532. When is God’s name taken in vain?

It is taken or uttered in vain when it is uttered in vain and unprofitable talk, and still more so when it is uttered lyingly or irreverently.

533. What sins are forbidden by the third commandment?

1. Blasphemy, or daring words against God.

2. Murmuring, or complaining against God’s providence.

3. Profaneness; when holy things are jested on, or insulted.

4. Inattention in prayer.

5. Perjury; when men affirm with an oath what is false.

6. Oath-breaking; when men keep not just and lawful oaths.

7. Breach of vows made to God.

8. Common swearing, or thoughtless oaths in common talk.

534. Are not such oaths specially forbidden in holy Scripture?

The Saviour says: I say unto you, Swear not at all, but let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Matt. v. 34, 37.

535. Does not this go to forbid all oaths in civil matters?

The Apostle Paul says: Men swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. Heb. vi. 16, 17. Hence we must conclude, that if God himself for an immutable assurance used an oath, much more may we on grave and necessary occasions, when required by lawful authority, take an oath or vow religiously, with the firm intention of not breaking it.

On the Fourth Commandment.

536. Why is it commanded to keep the seventh, rather than any other day, holy to God?

Because God in six days made the world, and on the seventh day rested from the work of creation.

537. Is the Sabbath kept in the Christian Church?

It is not kept, strictly speaking, as a holy day; but still in memory of the creation of the world, and in continuation of its original observance, it is distinguished from the other days of the week by a relaxation of the rule for fasting.

538. How, then, does the Christian Church obey the fourth commandment?

She still to every six days keeps a seventh, only not the last of the seven days, which is the Sabbath, but the first day in every week, which is the Day of the Resurrection, or lord’s Day.

539. Since when do we keep the Day of the Resurrection?

From the very time of Christ’s resurrection.

540. Is there any mention in holy Scripture of keeping the day of the Resurrection?

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles it is mentioned that the disciples–that is, the Christians–came together on the first day after the Sabbath, which was the first day of the week, or Day of the Resurrection, for the breaking of bread, that is to say, for the celebration of the Sacrament of the Communion. Acts xx. 7. The Apostle and Evangelist John also in the Apocalypse mentions theLord’s Day, or the Day of the Resurrection.

541. Is there not yet something more to be understood under the name of the seventh day, or Sabbath?

As in the Church of the Old Testament the name Sabbath was understood to include divers other days appointed like the Sabbath for festivals or fasts, as the festival of the Passover, and the day of Atonement, so likewise are we now in the Christian Church bound to keep, besides the Lord’s Day, certain others also, which have been appointed as festivals to the glory of God and the honor of the Blessed Virgin and other saints, or as days of fasting. (See Orthod. Confess. Pt. III. Q. 60; Pt. I. Q. 88.)

542. Which are the chief festivals?

Those appointed in memory of the chief events relating to the Incarnation of the Son of God for our salvation, and to the Manifestation of the Godhead; after these, those appointed in honor of the Most Holy Mother of God, as the instrument of the mystery of the Incarnation. Such, in the order of the events, are the following:

1. The day of the birth of the Most Holy Mother of God.

2. The day of her being brought to the Temple to be dedicated to God.

3. The day of the Annunciation; that is, when the angel announced to the Most Holy Virgin the Incarnation of the Son of God.

4. The day of the birth of Jesus Christ.

5. The day of the baptism of our Lord, and the Epiphany, or Manifestation of the Most Holy Trinity.

6. The day of our Lord’s being met in the Temple by Simeon.

7. The day of our Lord’s Transfiguration.

8. The day of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem.

9. Pasch, or Easter: the feast of feasts, the anticipation of the everlasting feast of everlasting blessedness.

10. The day of our Lord’s Ascension into heaven.

11. The feast of Pentecost; in memory of the Descent of the Holy Ghost, and in honor of the Most Holy Trinity.

12. The day of the Elevation of the Cross of our Lord, discovered by the Empress Helena.

13. The day of the Rest2 of the Most Holy Mother of God.

543. What is the chief fast?

The great fast; that is, Lent, or Quadragesima.

544. Why is it called Quadragesima?

Because it continues forty days, besides the week of Christ’s Passion.

545. Why has it been appointed that the great fast should continue forty days?

After the example of Jesus Christ himself, who fasted forty days. Matt. iv. 2.

546. Why has it been appointed to fast on the Wednesday and the Friday?

On Wednesday, in memory of the betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer; and on Friday, in memory of his actual suffering and death.

547. For what cause are the fasts before the Nativity, the Rest of the Blessed Virgin and the Day of the Holy Apostles?

The first two as preparatory exercises of abstinence, the better to honor the ensuing feasts of the Nativity, and of the Rest of the Mother of God; the last not only for like reason, but also in imitation of the Apostles, who fasted to prepare themselves for the work of preaching the Gospel.Acts xiii. 3.

548. How should we spend our time on Sundays, and the other greater holy days, in order to keep the fourth commandment?

First, on these days we should not labor, or do worldly and temporal business; secondly, we should keep them holy, that is, use them for holy and spiritual works, to the glory of God.

549. Why are we forbidden to work on holy days?

That we may with the less hindrance employ them in holy and godly works.

550. What particular things is it fit to do on holy days?

First, to go to church, for the public worship, and for instruction in the Word of God; secondly, when at home, to give ourselves to prayer and reading, or edifying conversation; thirdly, to dedicate to God a portion of our means, expending it on the necessities of the Church and her ministers, and in alms to the poor, to visit the sick and prisoners, and to do other works of Christian charity.

551. But should we not do such things on work-days also?

It is well, if any can; but he whom business prevents should at any rate devote holy days to such works. But as regards prayer, it is certainly our bounden duty to use it every day, morning and evening, before and after both dinner and supper, and, as far as possible, at the beginning and ending of every work.

552. What are we to think of those who on holy days allow themselves to indulge in indecent plays and shows, vulgar songs, and intemperance in meat and drink?

Such people greatly desecrate holy days For if even works innocent and useful for this present life are unfit for holy days, much more such as these, which are unprofitable, carnal, and vicious.

553. When the fourth commandment speaks of working six days, does it not thereby condemn those who do nothing?

Without doubt it condemns all who on common days do not give themselves to works befitting their calling, but spend their time in idleness and dissipation.

On the Fifth Commandment.

554. What special duties are prescribed by the fifth commandment in regard to parents, under the general phrase of honoring them?

1. To behave respectfully to them.

2. To obey them.

3. To support and comfort them in sickness and age.

4. After their death, as well as during their lives, to pray for the salvation of their souls; and faithfully to fulfill their last wills, so far as they are not contrary to law, divine or civil. See 2 Macc. xii. 43, 44Jer. xxxv. 18, 19. (J. Damasc. Serm. de Mort.)

555. What degree of sin is there in undutifulness to parents?

In proportion as it is easy and natural to love and honor parents, to whom we owe our being, the more grievous is the sin of undutifulness towards them: for this cause in the law of Moses he that cursed father or mother was to be put to death. Exod. xxi. 17.

556. Why has this particular commandment to honor parents a promise added to it of prosperity and long life?

That men by a visible reward might be the more moved to fulfill a commandment on which the good order first of families and afterwards of all social life depends.

557. How is this promise fulfilled?

The examples of the old Patriarchs or Fathers show that God gives special force to the blessing of parents. Gen. xxviiThe blessing of the father establisheth the houses of the children. Ecclus. iii. 9. God of his wise and just providence specially protects the life and promotes the prosperity of such as honor their parents upon earth; but for the perfect reward of the perfect virtue he gives everlasting life and blessedness in the heavenly country.

558. Why in those commandments which teach love to our neighbors is mention made first of all of parents?

Because parents are naturally nearer to us than all others.

559. Are there not others also to be understood in the fifth commandment under the name of parents?

Yes; all who in different relations stand to us in the place of parents.

560. Who stand to us in the place of parents?

1. Our sovereign and our country; for an empire is a great family, in which the sovereign is father, and the subjects children of the sovereign and their country.

2. Our spiritual pastors and teachers; for they by their doctrine and by the Sacraments beget us to spiritual life, and nurture us up in it.

3. Our elders in age.

4. Our benefactors.

5. Our governors, or superiors, in different relations.

561. How does holy Scripture speak of the honor due to the sovereign?

Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.Rom. xiii. 1, 2.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. Rom. xiii. 5.

My son, fear God and the king, and oppose neither of them. Prov xxiv. 21.

Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Matt. xxii. 21.

Fear God; honor the king. 1 Pet. ii. 17.

562. How far should love to our sovereign and country go?

So far as to make us ready to lay down our life for them. John xv. 13.

563. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of honoring spiritual pastors and teachers?

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. xiii. 17.

564. Is there in holy Scripture any particular injunction to honor elders in age as parents?

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy thus: Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; younger men as brethren; elder women as mothers. 1 Tim. v. 1,2.

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear the Lord thy God. Lev. xix. 32.

565. How may we be assured that we ought to honor benefactors as parents?

By the example of Jesus Christ himself, who was subject to Joseph; although Joseph was not his father, but only his guardian. Luke ii. 51.

566. Besides these, who are our superiors, whom we must honor after parents, and like them?

They who in place of parents take care of our education, as governors in schools, and masters;they who preserve us from irregularities and disorders in society, as civil magistrates; they who protect us from wrong by the power of the law, as judges; they to whom the sovereign intrusts the guardianship and defense of the public safety against enemies, as military commanders; and, lastly, masters, so far as relates to those who serve them, or belong to them.

567. What does holy Scripture prescribe as to our duty with respect to authorities generally?

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Rom. xiii. 7.

568. How does holy Scripture speak of the obedience due from servants and serfs to their masters?

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Eph. vi. 5, 6.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, out also to the froward. 1 Peter ii. 18.

569. If holy Scripture prescribe duties towards parents, does it not likewise prescribe duties towards children?

It does.

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. vi. 4.

570. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of pastors towards their spiritual flock?

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly, and according to God; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.1 Pet. v. 2, 3.

571. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of them that are in authority, and of masters?

Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Coloss. iv. 1.

572. How ought we to act, if it fall out that our parents or governors require of ns any thing contrary to the faith or to the law of God?

In that case we should say to them, as the Apostles said to the rulers of the Jews: Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; and we should be ready, for the sake of the faith and the law of God, to endure the consequences, whatever they may be. Acts iv. 19.

573. What is the general name for that quality or virtue which is required by the fifth commandment?

Obedience.

On the Sixth Commandment.

574. What is forbidden by the sixth commandment?

Murder; that is, taking away the life of our neighbor in any manner whatever.

575. Is it in all cases murder, and against this commandment, to kill?

No. It is not murder, nor against this commandment, when life is taken in the execution of duty; as, when a criminal is punished with death, by just judgment; nor, again, when an enemy is killedin war, in defense of our sovereign and country.

576. What is to be thought of involuntary homicide, when a man is killed accidentally and unintentionally?

The man who is guilty of involuntary homicide can not be reckoned blameless, unless he took all proper precautions against the accident; at any rate, he needs to have his conscience cleansed according to the Canons of the Church.

577. What cases must be reckoned as murder, and as breaches of this commandment?

Besides direct murder, by whatever means, the same sin may be committed in the following, and in similar cases:

1. When a judge condemns a prisoner whom he knows to be innocent.

2. When any one conceals or sets free a murderer, and so gives him opportunity for fresh crime.

3. When any one can save his neighbor from death, but does not save him; as, when a rich man suffers a poor man to die of hunger.

4. When any one by excessive burdens and cruel punishments wears out those under him, and so hastens their death.

5. When any one, through intemperance or other vices, shortens his own life.

578. What are we to think of suicide?

That it is the most criminal of all murders. For if it be contrary to nature to kill another man like unto ourselves, much more is it, contrary to nature to kill our own selves. Our life is not our own, but God’s who gave it.

579. What are we to think of duels, to decide private quarrels?

Since the decision of private quarrels belongs to government, while the duelist, instead of having recourse to law, willfully determines on an act which involves manifest danger of death both to himself and his opponent, it is evident that a duel implies three dreadful crimes– rebellion, murder, and suicide.

580. Besides murder of the body, is there not such a thing as spiritual murder?

A kind of spiritual murder is the causing of offense: when any one causes his neighbor to fall into infidelity or into sin, and so subjects his soul to spiritual death.

The Saviour says: Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matt. xviii. 6.

581. Are there not still some more subtle forms of murder?

To this sin are more or less referable all acts and words against charity; all which unjustly affect the peace and security of our neighbor; and, lastly, all inward malice against him, even though it be not shown openly.

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. 1 John iii. 15.

582. When we are forbidden to hurt the life of our neighbor, what positive duty is thereby enjoined?

That of doing all we can to secure his life and well-being.

583. What duties follow from hence?

Those of 1. Helping the poor; 2. Ministering to the sick; 3. Comforting the afflicted; 4. Alleviating the distress of the unfortunate; 5. Behaving in a gentle, affectionate, and edifying manner to all; 6. Reconciling ourselves with those that are angry; 7. Forgiving injuries, and doing good to our enemies.

 

 

On the Seventh Commandment.

584. What is forbidden by the seventh commandment? Adultery.

585. What forms of sin are forbidden under the name of adultery?

The Apostle Paul would have Christians not even to speak of such impurities. Eph. v. 3. It is only of necessity, to forewarn people against such sins, that we shall here name some of them. Such are–

1. Fornication; or irregular carnal love between unmarried persons. 2. Adultery; when married persons unlawfully give that love which they owe each other to strangers. 3. Incest; when near relations enter into a union like that of matrimony.

586. What does our Saviour teach us to think of adultery?

He has said that Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matt. v. 28.

587. What should we do in order to guard against falling into this subtle inward adultery?

We should avoid every thing that may excite impure feelings in the heart; as wanton songs and dances, lewd conversation, immodest games and jokes, immodest sights, and the reading of books which contain descriptions of impure love. We should strive, according to the Gospel, not even to look on that which may cause us to fall.

If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should he cast into hell. Matt. v. 29.

588. Must we, then, literally pluck out the offending eye?

We must pluck it out, not with the hand, but with the will. He who has firmly resolved not even to look upon that which causes him to offend hath already plucked out the offending eye.

589. When the sin of adultery is forbidden, what contrary virtues are thereby enjoined?

Those of conjugal love and fidelity; and, for such as can receive it, perfect purity and chastity.

590. How does holy Scripture speak of the duties of man and wife?

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it. Eph. v. 25Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church; and he is the Saviour of the body. Eph. v. 22, 23.

591. What motives does holy Scripture set before us to make us flee fornication and live chastely?

It bids us keep our bodies in purity, because they are the members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost; while, on the other hand, he who committeth fornication sinneth against his own body; that is, corrupts it, infects it with diseases, and, further, hurts his mental faculties, such as imagination and memory. See 1 Cor. vi. 15, 18, 19.

 

 

On the Eighth Commandment.

592. What is forbidden by the eighth commandment?

To steal, or in any way appropriate to ourselves that which belongs to another.

593. What particular sins are forbidden thereby?

The chief are–

1. Robbery, or the taking of any thing that belongs to another openly, by force.

2. Theft, or taking what belongs to another privily.

3. Fraud, or appropriating to ourselves any thing that is another’s by artifice; as when men pass off counterfeit money for true, or bad wares for good; or use false weights and measures, to give less than they have sold; or conceal their effects to avoid paying their debts; or do not honestly fulfill contracts, or execute wills; when they screen others guilty of dishonesty, and so defraud the injured of justice.

4. Sacrilege, or appropriating to ourselves what has been dedicated to God, or belongs to the Church.

5. Spiritual sacrilege;3 when one sinfully gives and another fraudulently obtains any sacred office, not of desert, but for gain.

6. Bribery; when men receive a bribe from those under them in office or jurisdiction, and for gain promote the unworthy, acquit the guilty, or oppress the innocent.

7. Eating the bread of idleness; when men receive salary for duty, or pay for work, which they neglect, and so in fact steal both their pay and that profit which society, or he whom they served, should have had of their labor; in like manner when they who are able to support themselves by work, instead of so doing live upon alms.

8. Extortion; when, under the show of some right, but really against equity and humanity, men make their own advantage of the property, the labors, or even the misfortunes of others; as when creditors oppress their debtors by usury; when masters wear out their dependents by excessive imposts or tasks; when in time of famine men sell bread at an exorbitant price.

594. When these sins are forbidden, what contrary virtues are thereby enjoined?

Those of–1. Disinterestedness; 2. Good faith in performing engagements; 3. Justice; 4. Mercy to the poor.

595. Does he, then, who is not merciful to the poor sin against the eighth commandment?

Certainly he does, if he have the means of assisting them; for all that we have belongs properly to God, and our abundance is given us by his Providence for the assistance of the poor; wherefore, if we do not impart to them of our abundance, we do in fact thereby rob and defraud them of their right, and the gift of God.

596. Is there not yet a higher virtue contrary to sins against the eighth commandment?

Such a virtue is absolute poverty, or the renunciation of all property; which is proposed by the Gospel not as a duty for all, but as a counsel for them that would be perfect.

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt hare treasure in heaven. Matt. xix. 21.

 

 

On the Ninth Commandment.

597. What is forbidden by the ninth commandment?

False witness against our neighbor, and all lying.

598. What is forbidden under the words false witness?

1. False witness in a court of justice; when men bear witness, inform, or complain falsely against any one.

2. False witness out of court, when men slander any one behind his back, or blame him to his face unjustly.

599. But is it allowable to censure others when they are really to blame?

No; the Gospel does not allow us to judge even of the real vices or faults of our neighbors, unless we are called by any special office to do so, for their punishment or amendment.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. Matt. vii. 1.

600. Are not such lies allowable as involve no purpose of hurting our neighbor?

No; for they are inconsistent with love and respect for our neighbor, and unworthy of a man, much more of a Christian, who has been created for truth and love.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another. Eph. iv. 25.

601. If we would avoid sins against the ninth commandment, what rule must we follow?

We must bridle our tongue. He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak, no guile. 1 Pet. iii. 10If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.James i. 26.

 

 

On the Tenth Commandment.

602. What is forbidden by the tenth commandment?

All wishes inconsistent with charity to our neighbor, and thoughts which are inseparable from such wishes.

603. Why are we forbidden not only evil deeds, but also evil wishes and thoughts?

First, because when the soul entertains any evil wishes or thoughts, it is already impure in God’s sight, and unworthy of him; as Solomon says: The unjust thought is an abomination to the Lord.Prov. xv. 26. And therefore we must needs cleanse ourselves also from these inward impurities also, as the Apostle teaches: Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. 2 Cor. vii. 1.

Secondly, because, to prevent sinful acts, it is necessary to crush sinful wishes and thoughts, from which, as from seeds, such actions spring; as it is said: For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Matt. xv. 19Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James i. 14, 15.

604. When we are forbidden to desire any thing of our neighbor’s, what passion is thereby

Envy.

605. What is forbidden by the words, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife?

All lustful thoughts and wishes, or inward adultery.

606. What is forbidden by the words, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any of his cattle, nor any thing that is his?

All thoughts of avarice and ambition.

607. What positive duties, corresponding to these prohibitions, are prescribed by the tenth commandment?

First, to keep purity of heart; and, secondly, to be content with our lot.

608. What is indispensable for the cleansing of the heart?

The frequent and earnest invocation of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

On Head Coverings

For some reason headcoverings seem to be a controversial issue within the Church. Do please note that the author of our Divine Liturgy, Saint John Chrysostom, instructs that we adhere to this standard during Divine Liturgy. Since he is indeed the author/editor of the Liturgy, we might want to take what he says about the Liturgy seriously. 

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence, possessing unfeigned love, pure in body, pure in heart, fit to pray to God. Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happen to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled. (The Instructor 3.11)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Arabia’s heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also… And the modesty of heathen discipline, indeed, is more simple, and, so to say, more barbaric. To us the Lord has, even by revelations, measured the space for the veil to extend over. For a certain sister of ours was thus addressed by an angel, beating her neck, as if in applause: Elegant neck, and deservedly bare! It is well for you to unveil yourself from the head right down to the loins, lest withal this freedom of your neck profit you not! And, of course, what you have said to one you have said to all. But how severe a chastisement will they likewise deserve, who, amid (the recital of) the Psalms, and at any mention of (the name of) God, continue uncovered… (On the Veiling of Virgins 17)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

When the teacher finishes his instruction, the catechumens shall pray by themselves, apart from the believers.  And [all] women, whether believers or catechumens, shall stand for their prayers by themselves in a separate part of the church.  And when [the catechumens] finish their prayers,  they must not give the kiss of peace, for their kiss is not yet pure.  Only believers shall salute one another, but  men with men and women with women; a man shall not salute a woman.
And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth, not with a veil of thin linen, for this is not a true covering. (Apostolic Tradition Part II.18)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-407

For this cause ought the woman to have a sign of authority on her head.

For this cause: what cause, tell me? For all these which have been mentioned, says he; or rather not for these only, but also because of the angels. For although thou despise your husband, says he, yet reverence the angels.

It follows that being covered is a mark of subjection and authority. For it induces her to look down and be ashamed and preserve entire her proper virtue. For the virtue and honor of the governed is to abide in his obedience.

Again: the man is not compelled to do this; for he is the image of his Lord: but the woman is; and that reasonably. Consider then the excess of the transgression when being honored with so high a prerogative, you put yourself to shame, seizing the woman’s dress. And you do the same as if having received a diadem, you should cast the diadem from your head, and instead of it take a slave’s garment. (Homily 26 on First Corinthians)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

[W]hat the apostle meant to signify is plain, and in so far figuratively and mystically, because he was speaking of covering the head of the woman, which will remain mere empty words, unless referred to some hidden sacrament. (On the Trinity Bk. 12.7.11)

 St. Paulinus of Nola ca. 354-431

Let them realize why Paul ordered their heads to be clothed with a more abundant covering: it is because of the angels, that is the angels who are ready to seduce them and whom the saints will condemn…A woman ought to cover her head especially in prayer and prophecy. Then she becomes pregnant with the Spirit, and accordingly rouses the hatred of the tempter all the more when she leaves behind the boundaries of her womanly weakness, and aspires to human perfection…So because a woman becomes spiritually pregnant,…she has a power over her head, so that the wiles and snares of the enemy may not confront her. (Letter 23 to Severus)