Ten Commandments

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 3: Does the Torah Condone Divorce?

The attitude of the Torah towards divorce can be gleaned from the very words the Torah uses to describe G_d, blessed is He, whose Name is so holy usually it is rendered in the Torah as either Adonoy the merciful, or Elohim the just. Elohim may get angry, but Elohim rarely speaks to judge, it is always Adonoy the merciful who speaks. Elohim the just may visit justice to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him, but Adonoy the merciful remembers those who Love him for thousands of generations. If Adonoy is so quick to be merciful to us, why should would not be as quick to be merciful to those whose lives we affect, particularly those close to us, our loved ones, our family? […]

Plato

Plato: Euthyphro, Who Won’t Listen

Socrates has been charged by the citizens of Athens of impiety, of corrupting the youth, and in preparation he must go to the porch of the King Archon. There he meets his friend, Euthyphro, and they converse about the serious charges filed against Socrates, and the serious charges Euthyphro intends against, surprisingly, his very own father. Socrates senses that his friend has little idea of the consequences of this action, and that his youthful haste may lead to a miserable and penurious future, and that his friend has pondered little of this drastic action. […]

Ten Commandments

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 2, How One Sin Can Lead to Many More, Up to a Perfect 10

The Decalogue is symmetrical. The commandments to Love G_d with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your possessions are mirrored in the commandments to love your neighbor as yourself. If you steal, murder, or adulter today, yesterday you coveted that which was not yours and could never properly be yours. Coveting is wanting. Coveting is looking. Looking, if not sinful, and it is sinful, is inviting sin to cross under our doorposts. […]

Ten Commandments

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 1, We are Invited to a Curious Bar Mitzvah

When the son of a close friend who was divorced invited me to his Bar Mitzvah I eagerly accepted. What a treat! Often those who are born into the faith do not realize what treasures they possess. We will watch as the great Torah scrolls were reverently, ceremoniously removed from the Ark and unrolled. We will then listen as the young man reads the ancient liturgy in English and also in G_d’s language, where the rhymes are more in thoughts than words, so by repetition the words are burned in your heart. We will pray the beautiful prayers in the prayer book. We will all participate in his initiation into the life of the Torah. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Basil On Envy

What is envy? St Basil teaches us that “envy is distress caused by your neighbor’s prosperity. The jealous person is never free from anguish, never free from despair.” Is your neighbor successful? Does he drive a nice car, live in a nice house, have an attractive wife and precious children? Is he happy? Is he healthy? Is he wealthy? “All these things feed the illness and increase the pain of the jealous person.” […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St John of Karpathos, 100 Texts for the Monks in India

St John of Karpathos encourages us to persevere in the spiritual life. When we stumble on the rocky path, when we skin our knees on the hard rocks, we should seek the hand of the Lord to pull us back up again. When we allow evil thoughts to roam about in our consciousness, for a time we forget grace, we distance ourselves from God, but that is when we should make every effort to seek God, so we are not deprived of the grace of God. St John of Karpathos tells us that “lifted by the wings of the Spirit and freed from the weight of my body, I was able to soar above he predatory demons,” those demons who care not for our soul, those demons who seduce us with the pleasures of this world. […]

Early Church Writing

St Cyprian on Envy and Jealousy

St Cyprian warns us of the pernicious evils of envy. “What a gnawing worm of the soul envy is, what a plague-spot of our thoughts, what a rust of the heart, to be jealous of another.” How envy gnaws at our soul when we hate our neighbor for their prosperity, their good luck, their inheritance, when we make other people’s glory our penalty, when we allow envy to be the executioner of our soul. When we are consumed by envy, “no food is joyous, no drink is cheerful. The envious are every sighing and groaning and grieving,” our envy torments us day and night. […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Blog 3, Justin Is Converted

Justin asks him why he needs philosophy when he can profit from Moses, his lawgiver, and the prophets. Trypho responds, “Why not? Do not the philosophers turn every discourse on God? Do not questions continually arise on God’s unity and providence? Is it not truly the duty of philosophy to investigate the Deity?”

How do the Jewish Scriptures and Greek philosophy relate to the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they conflict with the Gospel? Can Christians profitably study Jewish Scripture and Greek philosophy? These are the questions this dialogue explores, and St Justin the Martyr was one of the first of apostolic fathers to explore these issues. When you read teachings you have read many times before, remind yourself, you are probably reading the original source. […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St John Cassian on the Other Seven Vices, Blog 2

We must not only watch what we eat, we must watch what we think, as we seek to conquer the next vice, the demon of unchastity and the desire of the flesh.  St John Cassian teaches, “Bodily fasting is not enough to bring about perfect self-restraint and true purity; it must be accompanied by contrition of heart, intense prayer to God, frequent meditation on Scriptures, toil and manual labor. . . Humility of soul helps more than anything else. . . We must take the utmost care to guard the heart from base thoughts.”  Contrition and humility comes from sincere confession and repentance. […]

Philokalia Volume 1

John Cassian and the Vice of Gluttony, Blog 1

John Cassian’s teachings in the Philokalia are a good summary of the Ladder of the Divine Ascent.  His teachings on the Eight Vices are advice to those seeking salvation as monks, so we must discern how these teachings apply to those of us who seek salvation in the secular world; indeed, imagine what advice he would give to us living in the secular modern world to resist the vices of gluttony, unchastity, avarice, anger, dejection, listlessness, self-esteem, and pride.

The early Church Fathers always talk about fasting, the struggle against gluttony, as the first vice to conquer, once you conquer fasting, the other vices become easier to conquer.  The spiritual life is about changing your habits, adopting good habits, discarding bad habits, indeed habitually seeking to change your daily habits for the good. […]