Ladder of Divine Ascent

Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 1, Blog 1, On Renunciation of the World

Many pray for show, and John Climacus knows this. How a brother in the monastery treats those around him as a window into the true state of his soul. He who truly Loves God treats his brothers with respect and kindness and humility. He who truly Loves God repents of his failings when he treats his brothers poorly. Indeed, when John Climacus advises those who live in the world on how to live the solitary life, he doesn’t emphasize prayer and fasting, but rather he cares more how they treat their neighbors:

“Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me:
‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’

I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant to anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the Divine Services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
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Early Church Writing

The Church Fathers Preach Against the Judaizers

John Chrysostom is the most strident of the early Church writers in his writings opposing the Judaizers where he warned his flock that Christians should not adopt Jewish customs and practices, that Christians needed to celebrate the Church festivals rather than the Jewish festivals, that Christians should not attend services at the synagogue. His work “Against the Judaizers” is so polemic that it is far more anti-Semitic than the writings of Barnabas and St Justin Martyr and many other church fathers, it is painful for us modern readers to read, we who remember the horrific events of the Holocaust. This work is not in the standard collection of the works of the Nicene and Anti-Nicene Fathers, but it was widely read in medieval times and afterward, and unfortunately was used to justify the European and Russian pogroms and persecutions against the Jews.[2]

One scholar who has pondered the problems posed polemic stands against the Judaizers by St John Chrysostom and also St Cyril is Robert Wilken. In this book “John Chrysostom and the Jews,” he explores the history of the early church to better understand the world of the early Church Fathers. We cannot totally excuse the errors in the teachings of the early Church Fathers, but neither can we blindly judge and condemn them for not knowing the lessons of the Holocaust. There is nothing wrong with reading the Church Fathers as they apply to our modern world, but particularly in this case we should also let the Church Fathers in their ancient historical context, we need to do both lest we have a distorted understanding of the history of our faith. […]

Ladder of Divine Ascent

Ladder of Divine Ascent, Introduction

Marriage is a monastic calling. Marriages are only truly happy when each spouse puts the needs of the other first. Marriages are truly happy where the love each spouse has for the other is like the love St Paul describes, patient, kind, not jealous or boastful, not rejoicing in the wrong but rejoicing in the right, bearing all, believing always, hoping always, enduring everything, never failing.

Work, career and schooling are monastic callings. To get a good job, we spend many years of schooling to learn our trade or profession. If we spend all our school years partying and not studying, we pay for our lack of attention for the rest of our lives. To keep our job, we need to keep our bosses and customers happy. Even when know they are wrong, we bite our tongues and endure, because we work for them, and they are often right anyway. Our job is to serve them. If we mistakenly think they are there to serve us, we will have no job. If the company loses sight of their customers’ needs, the company itself may eventually bankrupt itself.

Child rearing is a monastic pursuit. When children are small they demand your attention, and sometimes they cry and you don’t know why. You can spend fun time with your children when they are little, playing with them and taking them places, or you can spend anguished time with them later, answering to judges and policemen. St Paul in Timothy teaches us that mothers are saved through child rearing if they lead a godly life. We are all saved if we put the needs and desires of others ahead of our own selfishness. […]

Facism

Vichy France, Blog 4, Christianity in Vichy France

Hitler shrewdly allowed the rump Vichy regime nominal autonomy in the third of France that was unoccupied by German troops. Marshal Petain and the Vichy regime had moral legitimacy in the early years of the war. Since the church teaches that the political authorities should be respected, the regime had the support of the elderly bishops throughout the war. The British were urging the French to fight on, from North Africa if necessary, but the Church Hierarchy felt that an attitude of repentance and acceptance was more appropriate. The humiliation of the German conquest was seen as an opportunity for moral and religious transformation. […]