29 June 2008

Hierarchical Liturgy

"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid." Ignatius, Smyrnæans ch. 8

The past few days we've had our annual Parish Life Conference, when all the priests and many people from our diocese gather to meet together. One of the highlights is always the hierarchical divine liturgy, the last morning of the conference. Witnessing or serving in one of these is seeing Ignatius' letters come to life in color and 3D. All those who serve, begin by asking the Bishop's blessing; no one does any significant action without receiving his blessing.
This photo is nice because it also shows all three orders of clergy: His Grace Bishop MARK in the foreground, Deacon David Khorey to his right, and your humble scribe beneath the icon of Christ.
Posted by Picasa

25 June 2008

An historical problem for the centrality of justification

Alastair McGrath, Iustitia Dei, (2nd ed) p. 19:

"Whilst the importance of soteriological considerations, both in the motivation of the development of early Christian doctrine and as a normative principle during the course of that development, is generally conceded, it is equally evident that the early Christian writers did not choose to express their soteriological convictions in terms of the concept of justification. This is not to say that the fathers avoid the term 'justification': their interest in the concept is, however, minimal, and the term generally occurs in their writings as a direct citation from, or a recognisable allusion to, the epistles of Paul, generally employed for some purpose other than a discussion of the concept of justification itself. Furthermore, the few occasions upon which a specific discussion of justification can be found generally involve no interpretation of the matter other than a mere paraphrase of a Pauline statement. Justification was simply not a theological issue in the pre-Augustinian tradition."

Note carefully what McGrath says here:
1. The fathers do discuss soteriology, and view it as a normative principle.
2. "Justification" plays no major role in those discussions.
3. Only with Augustine do things begin to change.

If justification is "the article upon which the Church stands or falls," whether that is viewed in a Lutheran way or a Roman way--then how is it that the Church did not stand before Augustine, and that it walked in a wobbly way until the Reformation (or Counter-Reformation, depending on whether you're Protestant or Roman Catholic)? Did the gates of hell prevail against the Church so soon after St. Paul? Or did the western fathers, beginning with the attorney Tertullian, followed by the rhetoritician St. Augustine, import into the text of Scripture an alien substructure?

24 June 2008

Sheep stealer


A man who keeps coming back to the haunts of his former co-religionists(1),
showing them what he calls the inadequacies of their current system (2),
and calling them to join him where he is now (3).
Answers to the names "Paul" and "Saul of Tarsus".

If found, please bring him to the offices of the Confraternity for the Prosecution of Heretics.

(1) Acts 13:5, 14; Acts 21:26
(2) Acts 13:46; Acts 22:1-21
(3) Acts 13:38-39; Acts 26:29

20 June 2008

Khomiakov on the difference between the East and the West

"I daresay you have felt long since, as have most of us, that the difference between the Eastern Church and all the Western communities, whether Roman, or sprung out of Rome in the form of Protestations, lies not so much in the difference of separate dogmas or portions of creed as in something else which has not been as yet clearly defined or expressed. This difference consists in the different manner of considering the Church itself."

He then continues, citing an encyclical of the eastern hierarchs,

"The Pope is greatly mistaken in supposing that we consider the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy to be the guardian of the dogma [of the Church]. The case is quite different. The unvarying constancy and the unerring truth of Christian dogma does not depend upon Hierarchical Order: it is guarded by the totality, by the whole people of the Church, which is the Body of Christ...No Hierarchical Order nor Supremacy is to be considered as a guarantee of truth. The knowledge of truth is given to mutual love."

And further,

"...the gift of unvarying knowledge (which is nothing but faith) is attributed, not to individuals, but to the totality of the ecclesiastical body, and is considered as a corollary of the moral principle of mutual love. This position is in direct contradiction to the individualism and rationalism which lies at the bottom of every Protestant doctrine."

from Khomiakov's fifth letter to Palmer, as found in "On Spiritual Unity"

18 June 2008

In the West, it seems...

...it all gets down to one individual over against many.

It was Augustine who changed the Church's formerly-held understanding of the Fall; Augustine who ignored the essence/energy distinction already taught by, for example, the Cappadocians; Augustine who explicated the "filioque."

Augustine can be forgiven, because he himself in his writings constantly begs to be corrected.

It was Aquinas who superimposed the teachings of Aristotle onto the doctrine of the Church, in a systematic and doctrine-distorting way. See how he argues that grace is created:

"...no accident is called being as if it had being, but because by it something is; hence it is said to belong to a being rather than to be a being (Metaph. vii, text. 2). And because to become and to be corrupted belong to what is, properly speaking no accident comes into being or is corrupted, but is said to come into being and to be corrupted inasmuch as its subject begins or ceases to be in act with this accident. And thus grace is also said to be created inasmuch as men are created with reference to it, i.e. are given a new being out of nothing, i.e. not from merits, according to Eph. ii.10, created in Jesus Christ in good works."

Aquinas, too, can be forgiven, because before his end he had a vision in which he testifies that all he had formerly written was straw.

It is harder to understand those who seek to build houses out of that straw--who take neither Augustine nor Aquinas at their own words about their writings.

In any case, in the west it boils down to one over against the many. For the west, in the end, Augustine is the Father; Aquinas is the doctor . . . just as the Bishop of Rome is the bishop.

The Protestants are faithful to their papal patrimony, then, when they plug in Luther, or Wesley, or Calvin as the one, over against which the many must be measured.

15 June 2008

A prayer from Kneeling Vespers

Orthodox Christians do not kneel for prayers from Pascha until Pentecost. Following the canon of the first Nicene council, we don't kneel on Sundays, either. So Vespers on the evening of Pentecost is the first time since Pascha that we kneel; and some marvelous prayers are contained in these "Kneeling Vespers." Here's just one of them:

"Lord Jesus Christ our God, You have bestowed Your peace on mankind, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, to be with us even in thus life as a perpetual inheritance to believers never to be taken away. On this day You have sent this grace upon Your disciples and Apostles in a way more manifest, giving utterance to their lips by means of fiery tongues, so that every human race, hearing in our own language received the knowledge of God, and, illumined by the light of the Spirit, emerged from error as from darkness, and in the distribution of visible tongues of fire, and by extraordinary power, were taught faith in You, and were enlightened to speak of You, as of the Father and the Holy Spirit, as one Godhead, one power, one sovereignty.

As the reflection of the Father, the perfect and immutable likeness of His essence and nature, the source of salvation and grace, open the lips of this sinner and teach me how and for what I should pray. For You know the great number of my sins, yet Your compassion will overcome their enormity. For in fear I stand before You, casting my soul's despair into the sea of Your mercy. Govern my life, as You govern all creation by the unspoken word and the power of wisdom, calm haven of the storm-tossed, and make known to me the way in which I should walk.

Grant me the Spirit of wisdom in my thoughts, the Spirit of prudence in my ignorance. Let the Spirit of the awe of You, overshadow my deeds. Renew a steadfast Spirit in my breast, and let Your guiding Spirit make firm my errant mind, so that each day, led by Your good Spirit towards that which is profitable, I may be worthy to keep Your commandments, ever mindful of Your glorious and soul-­searching presence. Do not allow me to be beguiled by the world's corrupting delights, but rather to desire the enjoyment of future treasures. For You, Master, have said, that whatever we ask in Your name, we shall without fail receive from Your co-eternal God and Father. Thus I, too, the sinner, at the descent of Your Holy Spirit, beseech Your goodness. All that I have asked, grant me for salvation. Yes, Lord, You are the lavish giver of everything good, giving far in excess of what we ask. You are the compassionate and merciful One Who, though sinless, became sharer in our flesh, and bending in love towards those who bend the knee to You, You became the propitiation for our sins.

Now then, Lord, grant Your people Your mercies; hear us from Your heavenly dwelling place; sanctify them by the power of Your saving right hand; shelter them in the shadow of Your wings; do not spurn the work of Your hands. It is against You alone that we sin, but it is You alone we worship; we know no alien god to adore, not to stretch out our hands to any other deity, O Master. Remit our offenses, and as You receive our petitions on bended knee, extend to us all a helping hand. Accept our common prayer as a pleasing fragrance, rising up to Your blessed kingdom."

14 June 2008

Quote of the week

"Soccer is like chess without dice."--German soccer player, according to Wait wait, don't tell me

Another confessional Lutheran pastor leaves the LCMS...

...this one to Rome. Pr. Daniel Woodring was present, I believe, when I read my paper "What is to be done?" to a group of confessional pastors in May 2005. He tells the story of his leaving Missouri to go to Rome on his blog.

Here is an excerpt of that story which I find interesting:

"One option was starting an independent Lutheran Church for which some had shown interest. But this would require outside employment. I also considered other Lutheran synods, each with their own problems, and, in my estimation, not really any better than the Missouri Synod. The last option was finding a church, outside of Lutheranism, where I, as a layman, could remain a Lutheran and yet worship and receive the Eucharist. This left only a few choices: Roman Catholic, Orthodoxy, and perhaps Anglican (or at least, Anglo-Catholic). I want to stress that at this point, I continued to believe that Lutheran theology was the correct exposition of the Word of God, and I had no intention of becoming anything other than a Lutheran in heart and mind. I didn't think I would find any of these options to be perfect in doctrine and practice. From my perspective, I was already a member of a heterodox church body: The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. Why not go to another heterdox fellowship? Perhaps they would be more tolerable than the Missouri Synod.

I decided to look at the Roman Catholic Church first, at least to rule it out. The Catholic Church, has pride of place, because everyone else separated from them. I also knew many Catholics who denied that we earn our salvation by good works, but always viewed them as being inconsistent with their Church's doctrine. But if they could be Catholic and believe the Gospel, then maybe so could I. I also knew that today’s Catholic Church was not exactly what it had been in the sixteenth century. At least the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification presented a more palatable position, than the Roman position characterized by Lutherans. I didn't believe that the Catholic Church was purely teaching the Gospel. But I thought, possibly, I could enter the Catholic Church, and still believe the Gospel. As one friend, a confessional Lutheran pastor, said to me, “The Catholic Church is, at least, one place you can go and still be a Lutheran.” I wasn’t totally convinced this was true, but it was worth exploring. "

In the first place, note how Pr. Woodring runs through the options Fr. John Fenton set forth in his paper delivered in Chicago. Fr. Fenton's analysis of the dilemma facing confessional Lutherans remains unmatched and unrefuted.

Pr. Woodring decided to try Rome first, he says, "because everyone else separated from them." While this may be true for the Protestants, it is most certainly question-begging with respect to the Orthodox. It was not the Orthodox who subtracted, but Rome who added the filioque to the Creed. It was not an Orthodox legate who laid a bull of excommunication on Rome's altar, but a papal legate who laid a bull of excommunication on Constantinople's. These are historical facts, and facts are stubborn things.

Pr. Woodring tried Rome, noting that "today’s Catholic Church was not exactly what it had been in the sixteenth century." Precisely so! (And, it might be noted, today's Catholic Church isn't exactly what it will be like in the future, either.) That should have given pause to someone who recognizes that, according to Scripture, the Church is the "pillar and foundation of Truth." Pillars and foundations are useful, precisely because they don't move.

Finally, he recalls the counsel of another Lutheran pastor who told him, “The Catholic Church is, at least, one place you can go and still be a Lutheran.” That's funny. I had a Roman Catholic priest friend who told me, "Robb, you can come to Rome and believe everything exactly the way the East does." To him I replied, "I've already experienced life in a body that tolerates a multitude of opinions. I want to belong to the Church, that speaks with one mouth and believes with one mind."

I appeal to any reader (either reader?) of this blog: if you are considering what to do in the face of the decay of the Lutheran confession, send me a note and I'll send you, by return email, Aleksei Khomiakov's fine work on the western confessions of faith. Seekers after Truth owe it to themselves to consider more than one option before they leap.

13 June 2008

St. Irenaeos on the Theotokos

...Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, bec(a)me the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race.

Gregory Thaumaturgos on the Theotokos

While searching for something else on the internet this morning, I came across a sermon by Gregory Thaumaturgos on the Theotokos (the full text may be found here). St. Gregory was the enlightener of Cappadocia. It was said that when he arrived, there were only 17 Christians; when he reposed, only 17 pagans remained. Gregory lived c. 210-260 AD.

+ + + + + + +

[L]et us praise the Holy Virgin; saying along with the angels in the language of Divine grace, "Rejoice thou and be glad." For from her first shone forth the eternally radiant light, that lighteth us with its goodness.

13. The Holy Virgin is herself both an honourable temple of God and a shrine made pure, and a golden altar of whole burnt offerings. By reason of her surpassing purity [she is] the Divine incense of oblation ( = προθέσεως), and oil of the holy grace, and a precious vase bearing in itself the true nard; [yea and] the priestly diadem revealing the good pleasure of God, whom she alone approacheth holy in body and soul. [She is] the door which looks eastward, and by the comings in and goings forth the whole earth is illuminated. The fertile olive from which the Holy Spirit took the fleshly slip (or twig) of the Lord, and saved the suffering race of men. She is the boast of virgins, and the joy of mothers; the declaration of archangels, even as it was spoken: "Be thou glad and rejoice, the Lord with thee"; and again, "from thee"; in order that He may make new once more the dead through sin.

14. Thou didst allow her to remain a virgin, and wast pleased, O Lord, to lie in the Virgin's womb, sending in advance the archangel to announce it [to her]. But he from above, from the ineffable hosts, came unto Mary, and first heralded to her the tidings: "Be thou glad and rejoice." And he also added, "The Lord with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." But she was in tumult, and pondered in her mind what sort of tidings was this. But then in seemly fashion, I ween, the grace chose out the Holy Virgin; for she was wise in all ways, nor was there her like among women of all nations.

15. Not as the first virgin did she, being alone in the garden, with loose and effeminate thought accept the advice of the serpent and destroy the thought of her heart; through whom came all the toil and sorrow of the saint. But such was the Holy Virgin that by her the former's transgressions also were rectified....

24. Not any more doth Adam fear the crafty serpent; |169 because our Lord is come and hath dispersed the host of the enemy. Not any more doth the race of men fear the craftiness and mad deceit of the serpent, because the Lord hath bruised the head of the dragon in the water of baptism. Not any more do I fear to hear the words: Dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou be turned. For the Lord in baptism hath washed away the stain of sin. Not any more do I weep, nor ever lament, nor ever reckon it again to wretchedness, when the thorns wound me. For our Lord hath plucked out by the roots the sins which are our thorns,6 and hath crowned His head withal. Loosed is the first curse in which He said: Thorns and thistles shall earth bring forth to thee, for the thorn is plucked out by the roots, and the thistle withered up; and from the Holy Virgin hath shot up the tree of life and grace. No more doth Eva fear the reproach of the pangs of childbirth; for by the Holy Virgin her transgressions are blotted out and effaced; forasmuch as in her was God born, to the end that He might make alive him whom He made in His image.

25. A bulwark of imperishable life hath the Holy Virgin become unto us, and a fountain of light to those who have faith in Christ; a sunrise of the reasonable light 7 is she found to be. Be thou glad and rejoice. The Lord with thee and from thee, who in His Godhead and His manhood is perfect, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead: "Be glad and rejoice, the Lord with thee and from thee" ----with His handmaid the Lord of glory; with her that is unspotted, He that halloweth all; with the beautiful, He who is wonderful in beauty above all the sons of men, to the end that He may make alive him whom He made in His image.

26. In the Divine words of the Teacher we believe and |170 rejoice; for with roses and lilies and fragrant wreaths Christ, our imperishable Spring, hath come unto us, and hath filled the fair garden of the churches, even the seed-plots of our hearts, from the paradise of God. So then with holy heart let us draw nigh, and find the golden faith gleaming wide and the fruits of immortality smelling sweet therein. For in the desert of Mary the fair-fruited tree hath shot up, that like one holy and pitiful, He may make alive His creature.

27. Holy and wise in all things was the all-blessed Virgin; in all ways peerless among all nations, and unrivalled among women. Not as the first virgin Eva, who being alone in the garden, was in her weak mind led astray by the serpent; and so took his advice and brought death into the world; and because of that hath been all the suffering of saints. But in her alone, in this Holy Virgin Mary, the Stem of Life hath shot up for us. For she alone was spotless in soul and body.

28. With intrepid mind she spake to the angel: Whence is this salutation, and how shall this be unto me? Dost thou desire to learn how the exceeding magnifical power becomes a fellow-sufferer with us of our poverty? How He that hath power over the hosts assumes the image of our baseness; and how He who is God before the ages is about to become a child and be made flesh, He that putteth on light as a garment and giveth life unto His creature. Grant me, said the Holy Virgin, to learn such an impenetrable mystery, and I become the vessel that receives the Divine mystery (or thought), being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, and [I am] to receive the truth of His flesh in my flesh, unto the building by Wisdom of her abode.

29. The Word becometh flesh and dwelleth in us, that is, in the same flesh, which it took from us; and by the spirit of its native self (or soul) it spiritualises [itself]. And the unchangeable God accepts the form of a slave, to the end |171 that He be regarded by the faithful as man; but that He may be manifested as God to the unfaithful, in order to renew the first-created.

30. The element of flesh doth the Son of God take from the Holy Virgin, for before the ages He is God. He hath deigned to be born, and to be called Son of man, and to become visible, He the invisible; and for our sake to be poor, who is all riches; and to suffer as man, He the impassible and deathless. For with (or in) the flesh in truth He was united, but He was not changed in spirit. In a mortal body the Invisible One was enveloped, that He might make it also deathless, making it sharer of His deathlessness through His Godhead; to the end that He might renew him that was fashioned by His holy hands.

31. Glory and light are come into the world, Christ our God. He glorifies and illumines with His ever-streaming light, to whom the voice of the unseen Father bore witness: "Yonder is My Son and Word, who is before the ages."

10 June 2008

The Church as Christ's body

Here's an excerpt from a fine essay by Christos Voulgaris, Dean of the University of Athens' theological faculty. The whole essay is available at Myriobiblos:

(T)he Church as a historical entity falls within the context of its inner relationship with Christ, because its nature is defined by its unity with Christ, on the human level, and by his consubstantiality with the Father and the Holy Spirit, on the divine level. Through his incarnation, the Son connects the Church with the Holy Trinity in his own divine-and-human person (Cf. Eph. 2,4-6). Christ’s perfect humanity forms the nature, as well as the entity of the Church which in this way constitutes the perpetual continuation of his incarnation extending beyond time. Hence, any thought of an ontological separation between Christ and Church rules out both, the fact of Christ’s incarnation and the reality of the Church. Without its ontological connection with Christ, the Church becomes a mere social organization. Christ and the Church together from a “whole”; without Christ is nothing; in him the Church is everything. Without the Church, Christ the Son is not incarnate, because after his incarnation the Son can be thought of only as both, divine and human and, therefore, only with the Church, while the Church can be thought of only in Christ and with Christ as his human body, i.e. as “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1,23). Here we meet with the extreme paradox: the unity which Christ forms with the Church is in some way identified with himself: he is the whole Christ, body and head. While he is a part of the whole, he is also the whole, the incarnate divine Son. And while the Church exist as a community in its own right, it at the same time is the body of the distinct person of Christ, the humanity of the incarnate Son and Logos.

That this paradox is so, i.e. that the appropriation of humanity by the divine Logos at his incarnation is tantamount to the formation of the Church as his body, in an objective sense, even before any human persons joined it as members, is evident in Eph. 5,22-30, where the unity between man and woman in the Sacrament of Marriage is placed parallel to the unity between Christ and the Church after the incarnation. The expressions: “as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5,25. Cf., Acts 20,28), and “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (v.26), suggest the objective existence of an entity before the incarnation proper living in sin, which the Son took to himself by becoming human and cleansed it. Christ’s body here is the entire human nature “per se”, not the body’s human members who are added to it by appropriating to themselves the human nature of the Son. Human nature cleansed from sin comprises the Church as Christ’s and so human persons are added to it as its members afterwards, so that we can say that as Christ’s body the Church exists as an objective reality even before or regardless of its members. The Church exists objectively at the incarnation and because of it, even without members. Christ’s human nature, being his human body, is the place within which he works out eternally the redemption and salvation of each particular human person and through them the salvation of the entire created order, to which humanity belongs (Cf.Rom. 8,14ff).

Now we can understand better Christ’s expression “in me” (εν εμοί) in John 6,56 and 15,1-10, as well as Paul’s frequent expression “in Christ” (εν Χριστώ) denoting not man’s identification with or absorption by Christ, but his unity with and in Christ’s humanity. Man’s unity with Christ does not deform him, but conforms him “to the image” of the incarnate Son (Rom. 8,29. 2Cor. 3,18. Gal.2,20.), which has nothing to do again with the idea of “corporate personality”. In the Church, the relationship is a member relationship to the head and the body, the whole Christ. In the same sense is also understood Paul’s formula “in Christ” with reference to Christ’s correspondence with Adam which defines the relationship between the “one” and the “many”. On account of the unity or the oneness of human nature, Adam’s fall extends to all of his descendants, while their individuality is preserved by their active participation in Adam’s sin when each human person does exactly what Adam did in the past, being thus for it personally responsible: “εφ’ ω πάντες ήμαρτον» (“because all men sinned on account of it”, Rom. 5,12). Influenced by satan fallen human persons inherit Adam’s sin which is “Like the transgression of Adam” («επί τω ομοιώματι της παραβάσεως Αδάμ»,Rom. 5,14). This fact rules out the rabbinic idea, according to which Adam constitutes the coherence of mankind in the sense that all men were created “in him”. Restricting the hereditary transmission of the original sin and ignoring Satan’s role in it, we are forced to deny the existence of righteous men in the Old Testament, on the one hand, and accept the universal salvation of all men by Christ without their active appropriation of his saving work to themselves, on the other. In this case, personal freedom and responsibility are done away with, and together with them active membership in the Church as well. In Paul’s expression “for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor. 15,22), we must understand the fall and restoration of human nature as objective conditions to which men participate personally by their own free will. Being unable to achieve salvation because of his fallen nature, man in Christ obtains it by actively sharing in Christ’s human nature cleansed from sin. This is why the Old Testament law could not save man (Heb. 7,19), even though, as God’s work, the law was “holy” and “good” and “spiritual” (Rom. 7,12-16), being thus restricted to the role of “our custodian until Christ came” (Gal. 3,23). Conditions changed however, when "God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8,3-4). Thus, “in Adam” and “in Christ’ we understand human nature in its two conditions: of sinfulness and sinlessness, i.e. the body of Adam, human nature, and “the body of Christ which is the Church” (Col. 1,24).

09 June 2008

My poor Skylark!

Here's a photo of my car, taken today at the service station where it was towed. Thank God for his faithful angels, watching over me.
Posted by Picasa


To: Archangel Michael, Chief Captain of the Bodiless Hosts
Fr: Guardian angel for Fr. Gregory Hogg
Re: Request for transfer

My charge was driving his car, a gift from his late father, east on 68th Street to pick up his son from Craig's Cruisers after work last night. All was well, till suddenly a driver coming the other way decided to turn right into his driver's side door. It was all I could do to nudge him to the side a bit. His left arm is cut, he is covered with glass, and the car is totaled. Other than that, he is fine, thank God.

The other driver fled the scene, leaving the other car behind.

I was wondering if I might get a transfer to someone living where there are few or no cars.

01 June 2008

St. John Chrysostom, exhortation from John 9

(Speaking of the man born blind:) Hast thou beheld the herald of the truth, how poverty was no hindrance to his true wisdom? Seest thou what reproaches, what sufferings he bare from the beginning, and how by word and by deed he testified?

[4.] Now these things are recorded, that we too may imitate them. For if the blind man, the beggar, who had not even seen Him, straightway showed such boldness even before he was encouraged by Christ, standing opposed to a whole people, murderous, possessed, and raving, who desired by means of his voice to condemn Christ, if he neither yielded nor gave back, but most boldly stopped their mouths, and chose rather to be cast out than to betray the truth; how much more ought we, who have lived so long in the faith, who have seen ten thousand marvels wrought by faith, who have received greater benefits than he, have recovered the sight of the eyes within, have beheld the ineffable Mysteries, and have been called to such honor, how ought we, I say, to exhibit all boldness of speech towards those who attempt to accuse, and who say anything against the Christians, and to stop their mouths, and not to acquiesce without an effort. And we shall be able to do this, if we are bold, i.e. through a good conscience. and give heed to the Scriptures, and hear them not carelessly. For if one should come in here regularly, even though he read not at home, if he attends to what is said here, one year even is sufficient to make him well versed in them; because we do not to-day read one kind of Scriptures, and tomorrow another, but always and continually the same. Still such is the wretched disposition of the many, that after so much reading, they do not even know the names of the Books, and are not ashamed nor tremble at entering so carelessly into a place where they may hear God’s word. Yet if a harper, or dancer, or stage-player call the city, they all run eagerly, and feel obliged to him for the call, and spend the half of an entire day in attending to him alone; but when God speaketh to us by Prophets and Apostles, we yawn, we scratch ourselves, we are drowsy. And in summer, the heat seems too great, and we betake ourselves to the market place; and again, in winter, the rain and mire are a hindrance, and we sit at home; yet at horse races, though there is no roof over them to keep off the wet, the greater number, while heavy rains are falling, and the wind is dashing the water into their faces, stand like madmen, caring not for cold, and wet, and mud, and length of way, and nothing either keeps them at home, or prevents their going thither. But here, where there are roofs over head, and where the warmth is admirable, they hold back instead of running together; and this too, when the gain is that of their own souls. How is this tolerable, tell me? Thus it happens, that while we are more skilled than any in those matters, in things necessary we are more ignorant than children. If a man call you a charioteer, or a dancer, you say that you have been insulted, and use every means to wipe off the affront; but if he draw you to be a spectator of the action, you do not start away, and the art whose name you shun, you almost in every case pursue. But where you ought to have both the action and the name, both to be and to be called a Christian, you do not even know what kind of thing the action is. What can be worse than this folly? These things I have desired continually to say to you, but I fear lest I gain hatred in vain and unprofitably. For I perceive that not only the young are mad, but the old also; about whom I am especially ashamed, when I see a man venerable from his white hairs, disgracing those white hairs, and drawing a child after him. What is worse than this mockery? What more shameful than this conduct? The child is taught by the father to act unseemly.

[5.] Do the words sting? This is what I desire, that you should suffer the pain caused by the words, in order to be delivered from the disgrace caused by the actions. For there are some too far colder than these, who are not even ashamed at the things spoken of, nay, who even put together a long argument in defense of the action. If you ask them who was Amos or Obadiah, or what is the number of the Prophets or Apostles, they cannot even open their mouth but for horses and charioteers, they compose excuses more cleverly than sophists or rhetoricians, and after all this, they say, “What is the harm? what is the loss?” This is what I groan for, that ye do not so much as know that the action is a loss, nor have a sense of its evils. God hath given to thee an appointed space of life for serving Him, and dost thou while thou spendest it vainly, and at random, and on nothing useful, still ask, “What loss is there?” If thou hast spent a little money to no purpose, thou callest it a loss: when thou spendest whole days of thine upon the devil’s pageants, thinkest thou that thou art doing nothing wrong? Thou oughtest to spend all thy life in supplications and prayers, whereas thou wastest thy life and substanceheedlessly, and to thine own hurt, on shouts, and uproar, and shameful words, and fighting, and unseasonable pleasure, and actions performed by trickery, and after all this thou askest, “What is the loss?” not knowing thou shouldest be lavish of anything rather than time. Gold, if thou shalt have spent, thou mayest get again; but if thou lose time, thou shalt hardly recover that. Little is dealt out to us in this present life; if therefore we employ it not as we ought, what shall we say when we depart “there”? For tell me, if thou hadst commanded one of thy sons to learn some art, and then he had continually stayed at home, or even passed his time somewhere else, would not the teacher reject him? Would he not say to thee, “Thou hast made an agreement with me, and appointed a time; if now thy son will not spend this time with me but in other places, how shall I produce him to thee as a scholar?” Thus also we must speak. For God will say also to us, “I gave you time to learn this art of piety, wherefore have ye foolishly and uselessly wasted that time? Why did ye neither go constantly to the teacher, nor give heed to his words?” For to show that piety is an art, hear what the Prophet saith, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” ( Ps. xxxiv. 11.) And again, “Blessed is the man whom Thou instructest, Lord, and teachest him out of Thy Law.” ( Ps. xciv. 12.) When therefore thou hast spent this time in vain, what excuse wilt thou have? “And why,” saith some one, “did He deal out to us but little time?” O senselessness and ingratitude! That for which thou wert most bounden to give thanks to Him, for that He hath cut short thy labors and abridged thy toils, and made the rest long and everlasting, for this dost thou find fault, and art discontented?

But I know not how we have brought our discourse to this point, and have made it so long; we must therefore shorten it now. For this too is a part of our wretchedness, that here if the discourse be long, we all become careless, while there they begin at noon, and retire by torch and lamp light. However, that we be not always chiding, we now entreat and beseech you, grant this favor to us and to yourselves; and getting free from all other matters, to these let us rivet ourselves. So shall we gain from you joy and gladness, and honor on your account, and a recompense for these labors; while ye will reap all the reward, because having been aforetime so madly riveted to the stage, ye tore yourselves away, through fear of God, and by our exhortations, from that malady, and brake your bonds, and hastened unto God. Nor is it “there” alone that ye shall receive your reward, but “here” also ye shall enjoy pure pleasure. Such a thing is virtue; besides giving us crowns in heaven, even here it maketh life pleasant to us. Let us then be persuaded by what has been said, that we may obtain the blessings both here and hereafter, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.