Hillel and Jesus

Comparing Hillel and Shammai to Jesus

There was an incident involving a Gentile who came before Shammai and requested:
“Convert me to Judaism on condition that you will teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot.”
Shammai pushed the man away with the building rod he was holding.
Undeterred, the man then came before Hillel with the same request.
Hillel said to him, “That which is hateful unto you, do not do unto your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Now, go and study.” […]

Epictetus and Rufus

Musonius Rufus on Exile

Rufus asks, like a good stoic, Why should the exile lament of his condition, why should he complain, how is he oppressed? Has he been exiled from the warmth of sun, has he been exiled from being refreshed by the rain, has he been excluded from the society of men? Rufus adds that in exile we may associate with our friends, our true friends, those friends “who would never betray or abandon us,” but those who shun us are not true friends, we are better off without those who are not truly friends. The most important question Rufus asks is, “How can exile be an obstacle to the . . . acquisition of virtue, when no one was ever hindered from the knowledge and practice of what is needful because of exile?” Rufus dismisses those who insist that exiles are the worse off when they also lose their freedom of speech. Nonsense, Rufus says, for you never truly lose your freedom of speech, for nobody can ever take away your freedom of thought, and if you do not feel free to speak out against injustice or impiety, you are not limited by lack of freedom, you are reined back by FEAR. To the truly courageous who insist on speaking out, the truly courageous who fear neither pain nor punishment nor death, how can they lose their freedom? They are truly free.

We must truly be thankful of all our fortunes and misfortunes, for neither keeps us from seeking virtue, and both can aid us in our journey towards greater virtue, towards salvation, towards the working out of our salvation, for what else does working out our salvation mean, if it does not mean that we work out our salvation through both our blessings and our sufferings? […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on Concupiscence, Blog 3, Final Reflections

The church teaches that what gives marriage purpose is the bearing of children, so we do not live our lives for ourselves. Salvation is the purpose of marriage, the salvation of our children, the salvation of our spouse, and the working out of our salvation. How does the command to love our neighbor as ourselves work its way out in marriage? We should consider first the good of our children in the living of our lives, then we should work for the good of our spouse, and we should take care of ourselves, but we are last. But last of all in a marriage should be concupiscence, but we should not neglect loving kindness and tenderness, that should pervade all the relationships with our children and with our husband or wife. […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on Concupiscence, Blog 2

St Augustine starts his discussion on “On the Good of Marriage” with a discussion how marriage is first a friendship in bonds of family, and a friendship between man and wife, friends who walk together, side by side, raising children, growing old together. St Augustine is a bit harsher in “Marriage and Concupiscence,” teaching that “in matrimony, let these nuptial blessings b the objects of our love – offspring, fidelity, the sacramental bond.” This sacramental bond is meant to be ever-enduring, “lost neither by divorce nor by adultery, and should be guarded by husband and wife with concord and charity.” […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on Concupiscence, Blog 1

St Augustine’s most famous quote, made before his ultimate conversion, was a prayer to God, “Please, Lord, grant me chastity, but not yet.” This shows that St Augustine was quite human, just like us, and quite honest about his struggles with intimacy. Let us give St Augustine the benefit of the doubt, let us read him hagiographically, for even though the modern world with modern technology differs greatly from the world of the ancient Christian, St Augustine has much to teach us, and we can benefit from his teaching, finding purpose in our family life, working out our salvation through the raising of our children and through our relationships with our spouse and other family members and close friends. […]

Iliad and Odyssey

The Iliad Blog 7, the deaths of Patroclus and Hector

The embassy to Achilles ends with them leaving not a warrior
but simply a bard strumming his lyre alone on the shores of the sea.
The battle lines sway back and forth, Odysseus and Ajax spy a Trojan spy,
and cut him down, then the Trojans in his advance camp.
The battle wages, many warriors fall, many warriors are wounded and healed,
as Professor Vandiver notes, they either or suffer minor injuries,
the heroes of the Iliad never suffer humiliating injuries. The Trojans fight their way to very walls of the Greek camps,
which was really a fortified fortress with palisades of sturdy timbers,
surrounded by a deep ditch dug to furnish earth for protection. […]

Epictetus and Rufus

Musonius Rufus on Concupiscence and Controlling the Appetites

Many who denigrate St Augustine for his overly strict attitudes on intimacy and concupiscence do not realize that he was repeating what Stoic philosophers taught. Rufus is our best example, he criticizes “men who live luxuriously and desire a variety of sexual experiences, legitimate and illegitimate, with both women and men.” Then Rufus gives us advice that is very similar to the teachings of St Augustine: “men who are neither licentious nor wicked must consider only those intimate acts between husband and wife for the creation of children to be right and lawful, but intimate acts that chase after mere pleasure, even in marriage, to be wrong and unlawful.” What if nobody is hurt by these acts of pleasure? Rufus maintains “everyone who acts wrongly and unjustly, even if doesn’t hurt those near to him, immediately shows himself to be entirely base and dishonorable.” […]

Early Church Writing

Epistles of St Ignatius to the Romans and Polycarp

Repeatedly St Ignatius begs the Romans not to seek a pardon to prevent his martyrdom. He writes his rhapsody, “in the fullness of life I am yearning for death with all the passion of a lover. Earthly longings have been crucified; in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, ‘Come to the Father’. There is no pleasure for me in any meats that perish, or in the delights of this life; I am fain for the bread of God, even the flesh of Jesus Christ, who is the seed of David; and for my drink I crave that Blood of His which is Love imperishable.” “I am His wheat, ground fine by the lion’s teeth to be made purest bread for Christ.” […]