Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 5, Blessed are the Peacemakers and the Persecuted

We must be one of the peacemakers. What is peace? Peace is a “loving disposition towards our neighbor.” What is the opposite of this love? The enemy of peace is “hate and wrath, anger and envy, harboring resentment as well as hypocrisy and the calamity of war.”
We are reminded that the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Plain directly reminds us that not only are the poor in spirit blessed, but also the poor and down and out, and in case we do not comprehend, Jesus in Luke warns us, “woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” So what is common between to these two Beatitudes and the words of Jesus on the Day of Judgement? St Gregory of Nyssa teaches us, “they all converge on the same goal,” they all show how the Love of God shines in our lives and in how we live our lives, and the love we show to our neighbor. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 4, Blessed are the clean of heart and the merciful

These sermons by St Gregory of Nyssa are cited twice in the Catholic Catechism in its discussion of the Commandment, DO NOT COVET, DO NOT ENVY.  St Gregory of Nyssa mentions envy in this Beatitude: “Some people covet glory, or wealth, or prominence.  Others lap up envy like some noxious food, and there are others (more holy) who desire things whose nature is good.”  He continues, “the Word calls blessed those who hunger not without qualification, but those whose desire is directed toward true justice.”

Those who hunger and thirst for justice need never be filled, the possession of virtue “always offers its disciples the fulness of its delights.  Therefore, God the Word promises to those who hunger for these things that they shall be filled, and in being filled their desire for virtue will not be dulled but rather kindled anew.” […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 3, Blessed are the Meek and Those Who Mourn

St Gregory of Nyssa teaches, “Blessed are those who are not easily turned towards the passionate movements of the soul, but who are steadied by reason.”  “To boast of riches or to be proud of one’s family, to have regard to fame and to think oneself above one’s neighbor, all these human honors destroy and shame the honor of the soul.  No righteous man would thus defile the purity of his soul.  When humility is well established, wrath will find no entrance into the soul.  If there is no wrath, our life will be in a settled state of peace.  This is true meekness.” […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 2, Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

St Gregory of Nyssa’s collection of sermons on the Beatitudes is quoted twice in the Catholic Catechism’s discussion on the commandment, DO NOT ENVY.  At first blush that seems odd, the Beatitudes do not directly mention envy, but when you think of the Beatitudes as positive commands, as encouragements to Love God and our neighbor more deeply, promising blessings to those whose hearts are humble, we realize that the connection between the Beatitudes is quite natural and not odd at all, for the commandment DO NOT envy is also a positive command to see our neighbor in the best light possible, to see our neighbor’s good fortune as our good fortune, to truly love our neighbor as ourselves. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 1, The Allegory of the Cave

The Beatitudes and St Nyssa’s sermons on the Beatitudes are both poetry of the soul.  St Nyssa asks us, “Who among us is a disciple of the Word, seeking to ascend with our Lord from the low ground, from superficial and ignoble thoughts to the spiritual mountain of sublime concentration?  This mountain leaves behind all shadows cast by the rising hills of wickedness, this mountain is lit up on all sides by the rays of true light, from the summit of this mountain everything that is invisible to those imprisoned in the CAVE may be seen the pure air of truth.” […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr’s Second Apology to Senate, Quoting Xenophon’s Socrates, Blog 2

Justin compares Jesus to Socrates, who was accused of the same crimes as the Christians, being accused of atheism and impiety, and of corrupting the youth.  The Greeks accused Socrates “of introducing new divinities, and did not consider those to be gods that the state recognized.  In the Republic he cast out from the state both Homer and the rest of the poets, and taught men to reject the wicked demons and those who did the things which the poet related.”  The early Church Fathers, including Justin, did not deny the existence of the pagan gods, rather they saw them as demons active in the world.  But Jesus was mightier than Socrates, whereas “no one trusted in Socrates so as to die for his doctrine,” many willingly believes and are martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Blog 1, First Apology to the Emperor

Justin opens his apology, “Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow the opinions of the ancients if these be worthless,” a surprising argument, given the weight that the Romans placed on the ancient traditions.  Right belief matters, “the lover of truth should choose to do and say what is right, by all means, and if threatened with death,” be willing to lay down his own life.

Justin quotes Plato, “unless both the rulers and the ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.”  The ancients believed that to pursue philosophy was to seek to live a godly life.  Justin also echoes Plato when he says “rulers should rule in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy,” a somewhat ironic wish since under the rule of the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius he would suffer a martyr’s death. […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 7, Precious Stoic Nuggets of Wisdom

Seneca tells us that “we Stoics believe that pleasure is a vice.” Like the Church Fathers, Seneca reminds us that we need to overcome many years past of bad habits with many future years of living a godly life. “We are fettered and weakened by many vices; we have wallowed in them for a long time and it is hard for us to be cleansed.”
Seneca asks, “Why does folly hold us with such an insistent grasp? Primarily because we do not combat our vices strongly enough, we do not struggle towards salvation with all our might, we do not trust and drink in the words of the wise with open hearts,” we are not serious in our struggle against our vices, our efforts at living a godly life are but trifles. […]

Catholic Catechism

Catholic Catechism, Thou Shalt Not Covet thy Neighbors Possessions, Blog 4

The Catholic Catechism warns that coveting, or avarice, “is the root of theft, robbery, and fraud.”  Both avarice and fornication are both sins of idolatry, when we stray from the love of our neighbor, we stray from the Love of our God, Love of God and love of neighbor are like two vines that twist around the same branch.  Coveting “concerns the intentions of the heart, and summarizes all the precepts of the Law.”  The commandment against coveting forbids the greed that gathers up earthly goods without limit, and the “avarice arising from the passion for riches.”  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on Catechizing the Uninstructed, Blog 2

If you seek to become a Christian for social or temporal reasons you may backslide from the faith when you see “wicked and impious men” who are more prosperous than you are.  You may ask yourself, How is this faith helping me?  This is the wrong question, for the true Christian seeks “everlasting blessedness and the perpetual rest of the saints so he may not pass into eternal fire with the devil but rather enter into the Eternal Kingdom together with Christ.  He will be on his guard in every temptation, so we will neither be corrupted by prosperity nor be utterly broken in spirit by adversity, but remain modest and temperate during good times, and be brave and patient during times of tribulation.”  Then this Christian will “Love God more than he fears hell,” and he will recoil from evil thoughts and temptations. […]