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. […]

Facism

Vichy France, Blog 3, The Tide Turns, Resistance and Collaboration

Now that Russia was again an enemy of Germany, the Communists in France faced greater pressure, causing more Communists to join the Resistance which actively opposed the Germans and the Vichy French, and also greater cooperation between Catholics and Communists in France that would last into the post-war years. Terrorism and assassinations of German officials increased, and the Vichy officials were drawn into the struggle against the Resistance, which was now a civil war.

Now the Vichy officials heard a new excuse when they urged the Germans to see them as partners rather than as conquered, the Germans were now far too busy on the Eastern front to attend to matters in Europe, the French would have to wait until the end of the war to negotiate a permanent peace.

The German persecution of the Jews in France increased in 1942, Jews were required to wear yellow stars, and Himmler ordered that 100,000 Jews from all of France be deported to the Auschwitz death camps, foreign born Jews first. The Vichy officials offered token resistance.[3] This persecution extended to clergy who assisted the Jews, many French priests would be murdered in the Dachau concentration camp, many of the faithful would become martyrs in their defense of the Jews. One nun commented as she sent to the death camp in Ravensbruk, “I am leaving for Heaven.” […]

Facism

Vichy France, Blog 2, Collaborating with the Germans in the Early Years, 1940-1942

The war in France seemed over in 1940, with Germany in control of the continent, the French were asking, how would it be possible for England to fight back? Hitler was quite willing to accept a lenient armistice, lenient on his terms, Hitler did not want the French government to flee to continue the war from Algeria.

Marshall Petain announced over the radio, “With a heavy heart, I tell you that it is necessary to stop the fighting.” Charles de Gaulle remembered bitterly, “Not a single public figure raised his voice to condemn the armistice.” In hindsight we all know the Nazis lost the war, but in 1940 most French expected a final peace conference in a matter of months. Marshal Petain won the gratitude of most French who thought he had saved them from the abyss of another war in the trenches of France.

The Nazis occupied the northeast two-thirds of France, including Paris, but left the French Vichy regime to govern the rest France in relative autonomy. Soon the borders hardened between the occupied France and Vichy France. Although the Vichy leaders technically had jurisdiction over all of France, they were not even allowed to travel to Paris. Although some were eventually released, two million French POW’s were held in prison camps in Germany throughout the war, and the French had to pay most of their taxes to Germany as reparations to pay for the occupation forces. The German speaking provinces of Alsace-Lorraine were annexed by Germany. The French were eager to negotiate a permanent peace, but Hitler was not so eager. Again and again Hitler would tell the Vichy leaders that they needed to wait for the end of the war to end for a settlement. […]

Vichy France

Vichy France Regime, Blog 1, Pro-Life, Pro-Catholic, and Fascist

Was the reputation of the Catholic Church harmed by the collaboration of the Vichy regime? There is no single clear-cut answer to this question. The study of the Vichy regime is most valuable when used as a study on how Christians should live their lives under a secular and ungodly regime. Most of the bishops were compromised in their dealings with the Nazis and the Vichy regime, only one Vichy bishop spoke out against collaboration, many bishops were forced to resign at the war’s end. However, many Catholic clergy and laymen opposed the anti-Semitism of the war years. Communists and Catholics jointly fought against the Nazis in the French Resistance, and much pro-Catholic legislation introduced by the Vichy regime was retained after the war. We can be cautiously optimistic in our views, many Catholics and priests lived out their faith in difficult times, although many Catholics and priests collaborated with the Nazis. […]

Ladder of Divine Ascent

Ladder of Divine Ascent, Personal Reflection

Bad habits and bad habits are incredibly difficult to even see in our souls. Changing bad habits and attitudes are is even more difficult. We can spot the bad habits and attitudes in others, but we rarely see them in ourselves. If others point out our bad habits, often we deny them. The deeper the truth that is seen, the deeper is our hurt, and the more vehemently will we deny our faults.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent is about developing the spiritual discipline needed to change bad habits and bad attitudes. This discipline is born of our repentance. Our sins and the consequences we suffer are our fault, and we should repent. Even when they are not our fault, they especially are our fault, or they may be caused by sins in prior generations long forgotten but never properly buried. Through our sufferings we work out our salvation.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent teaches us that when we Love God when we love our neighbor. When we rehabilitate our relationships with those close to us, our spouse, our family, our bosses, our co-workers, our teachers; that is when we begin to Love God. For most of us the most important and most difficult relationship is our relationship with our spouse. […]

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

Vatican II Declaration of Religious Freedom, Blog 4, Debates at Vatican II

Religious liberty was a controversial topic, religious liberty was either comforting or threatening to the faith, depending on the region. In America, religious freedom was a guaranteed constitutional right that helped Christianity thrive. In Latin American, aggressively polemic American evangelicals were eager to poach the Catholic faithful. In the communist Eastern bloc, the persecuted Church dreamed of guaranteed rights to religious liberty so the Church could thrive. In continental Europe, many Catholics equated religious liberty with the ideas of the French Revolution and its hatred of all things religious. In Italy and Spain the Catholic Church was granted preferential treatment by the state, would a new emphasis on religious liberty lead to a loss of faith in these countries? […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Marriage and Family Life In Ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel

We in the modern world are so quick to condemn the ancients for misogyny, for not treating women as equals, for subjugating women, we forget how dangerous it was to be a woman in the ancient world. Indeed, those in the ancient world would be puzzled by these accusations, they would reply that their entire culture is built around the need to protect women, for it was dangerous for pretty women to be wandering about town for any reason, rape was a constant threat, women were sequestered partially for their protection. The Hebrews in the Old Testament culture did not sequester women quite as much as the Greeks, many of the stories in the Old Testament describe how romances center around the wells where the women draw water for their flocks. This was true even in the middle ages, St Francis and his monks could choose to minister to the townspeople, but St Claire and her nuns were always cloistered. […]