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. […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St Mark the Ascetic, Blog 2, No Righteousness By Works

St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when we fulfill the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention.” When we live a godly life, the immediate reward is the living of a godly life. Salvation is promised in the next life for living a godly life, as St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “fear of hell and love for God’s kingdom enable us patiently to accept affliction; and this they do, not by themselves, but through Him who knows our thoughts.”

However, salvation can also be attained in this life when we are transformed into godly people, adopted sons of our Father in Heaven. Luke reminds us, “once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ’The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’”

St Mark continues, “Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of his incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own Blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’, do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer.” […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St Mark the Ascetic, Blog 1, No Righteousness By Works

We should always search our heart for upright and humble motives. St Mark the Ascetic warns that “some, without keeping the commandments, think they are keeping the faith, while others, keeping the commandments, expect to receive the kingdom as a reward owed to them. Both are deprived of the kingdom.” Our reward lies in our humble obedience, our salvation is our striving to live a more godly life.

Salvation is not a transaction, salvation is not bartering, salvation is a gift by grace, unearned. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when the Scriptures say, ‘God will reward each person according to his works,’ the Scriptures are not saying that works deserve hell or the kingdom, but rather that works are done out of faith or lack of faith in Him. Christ repays each person not as a businessman fulfilling his contracts but as God, our Creator and Redeemer,” out of love for us, not out of bartered obligations. […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St. Mark the Ascetic, Writings on the Spiritual Law

You cannot cherry-pick which commandments you should follow and which ones you should ignore. Little sins vs whoppers, scrupulously avoiding small penny sins to save up for the whoppers you need to be forgiven for when you hide thousands of dollars of defects when selling your house or when you need to ruin someone financially to steal their business. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “Those who do not consider themselves under obligation to perform all of Christ’s commandments study the law of God in a literal manner, ‘understanding neither what they say nor what they affirm.’ (1 Tim 1:7) Therefore the think they can fulfill the law by their own works.”(34)
“Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues. . . Perfection is hidden in the Cross of Christ.(31) The law of freedom by true knowledge, and is understood through the practice of the commandments, and is fulfilled through the mercy of Christ.”(32)
“Fulfilling a commandment is one thing, and virtue is another, although each promotes the other.(193) Fulfilling a commandment means doing what we are enjoined to do; but virtue to do it in a manner that conforms to the truth.”(194) […]

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

Luther on Do Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor

Luther starts his Large Catechism commentary on this commandment memorably, “Besides our own body, our wife or husband, and our temporal property, we have one more treasure which is indispensable to us, namely, our honor and good name, for it is intolerable to live among men in public disgrace and contempt.” Our reputation is our most precious possession, more important than baubles and gold, every man wants “to maintain his self-respect before his wife, children, servants, and neighbors.” […]

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

Vatican II Declaration of Religious Freedom, Blog 3, American vs European History

For Americans, what is puzzling is why a Declaration of Religious Freedom not be an obvious right, why would bishops argue over this decree over three sessions of Vatican II, and why would it need to go through six drafts before being approved? The United States was the first major country to guarantee the freedom of religion in our founding documents, and the American bishops led by John Courtney Murray led the Council in the formulation of the final drafts on religious freedoms.

To understand the controversy over the doctrine of religious liberty we need to review European history from classical times to modern times. In future years we plan a series of more in-depth blogs in this interesting history, here we will review the broad brush of history as it relates to religious history. This is general knowledge so we will forgo footnotes, instead I will provide links for the various Great Courses that IMHO best pertain to these topics. Painting history with such a broad brush may reveal more about my own personal beliefs than the actual history, hopefully it will spark your curiosity to study further these topics so you can come to your own conclusions. […]

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

Vatican II Declaration of Religious Freedom, Blog 2, Dignitatis Humanae

In Murray’s words, the final decree denies the concept of a “double standard, freedom for the Church where Catholics are a minority, privilege for the Church and intolerance for others when Catholics are a majority.” Murray describes freedom of religion as three tiers. First, religious liberty is a human right and a personal freedom and a collective freedom for the citizenry. Second, religious liberty is a political doctrine on the functions and limits of government in religious affairs. Finally, religious liberty is a theological doctrine that governs the relationship between the Church and the state. […]

Catholic Catechism

Vatican II Declaration of Religious Freedom, Blog 1, Pacem In Terris

What has also not changed is the fact that the moral laws apply to all people, no matter their rank in society. Many modern men are deluded into believing that the moral law only binds individual men to behave properly to one another, but Pacem in Terris reaffirms that the moral law also applies to relationships between men and the state, and to international disputes and behavior between states, and between states and international institutions like the UN and the World Bank and the IMF.

Also affirmed, “man has a right to live,” he has a right to live with dignity, with sufficient “food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and necessary social services,” to be cared for when he is sick, disabled, widowed, elderly, or when he cannot earn a living through no fault of his own. Man should be guaranteed freedom from harassment, freedom of speech, and be enabled to get a good education and realize his potential regardless of his class or wealth. […]