Early Church Writing

Shepherd of Hermas on Envy, Dangers of Luxury, and Salvation

The Shepherd of Hermas, also known as the Pastor of Hermas, was regarded by some early Christians as Scripture. A consensus was reached that only books that were apostolic would be included in the canon, and the Shepherd was written in the generations after the apostles. But it was recommended by many for profitable spiritual reading, and reading this work is profitable still, for the message of Hermas runs counter to the prosperity gospel, condemning luxurious living. He has a vision in Similitude 6 of a false shepherd, “an angel of luxury and deceit,” whose sheep “were feeding luxuriously and riotously, merrily skipping about,” “deceived by wicked desires, forgetting the commandments of the Living God.” Those who are lost in luxurious living, spending their time eating “the richest delicacies and in drunken revels,” cannot “return to life through repentance, because they are adding to their sins, and blaspheming the name of the Lord.” […]

Evagrios the Solitary

Evagrios the Solitary, Blog 4, 153 Texts On Prayer

Evagrios compares the persistence of prayer to the seven years of labor by Jacob to gain the hand of Rachel, his gazelle, for Jacob so loved Rachel that the seven years he labored for her hand seemed to him to be but a day. On his wedding night Leah, her sister, was substituted for Rachel, and Jacob labored yet another seven years for the hand of Rachel. […]

Seneca

Seneca, Stoic Philosopher, Moral Epistles, Blog 5, On the Benefits of Friends and Keeping Score

Seneca says, “Let us avoid being ungrateful, not for the sake of others but for our own sakes.” Likewise, Seneca warns, “evil drinks the largest portion of her own poison.” “When we do wrong, only the least portion flows back upon our neighbor, the worst and densest portion blows back, troubling us instead.” “The ungrateful man tortures and torments himself; he hates his gifts for he must return the favor, he tries to belittle their value, but when he does this he hurts himself instead. What is more wretched than the man who forgets his benefits and clings to his injuries?” […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 4, Stoic Concepts of Virtue and the Good

What distinguishes the virtuous soul? Seneca says It is “the soul that penetrates the whole world and directs it contemplating gaze upon all its Phenomena, paying strict attention to thoughts and actions, rising above both hardships and flatteries, yielding neither to poverty nor to fortune, rising above all tribulations and blessings, absolutely beautiful, perfectly equipped with grace and strength, unruffled, never dismayed, unmoved by violence, neither exalted or depressed by chance events – a soul like this is virtue itself.” Virtue is not like the house built on sand that is swept away by the first storm, virtue is the house built on the rocks, the house that stands firm against the waves and the storms that crash against the rocks, this house is never moved. Seneca lists the other virtues, “tranquility, simplicity, generosity, constancy, equanimity, endurance.” […]

Evagrios the Solitary

Evagrios the Solitary, Blog 2, Text on Discrimination of Passions and Thoughts

The demons tempt us through our passions, they tempt us through our perceptions, they tempt us through our memories of past pleasures that tempt us, through painful memories of those who have harmed us, and if this was true in the days of Evagrios, how much more true it is today when the media bombards us with images of pleasure and pain and cruelty.  Evagrios warns us, “all thoughts producing anger or desire in a way that is contrary to nature are caused by demons.”  If Evagrios could visit us today, what would he say about the wisdom of Christians attending church on Sundays and watching horror movies or violent movies on Friday nights?  Are we inviting demons into our souls to tempt us, to crowd us the compassionate thoughts in our soul?  We should guard ourselves against the demons of anger and rancor who seek for us to replay over and over in our mind the wrongs that others have done to us in the past. […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 3, Loving Philosophy, Loving God, Loving our Neighbor

If Seneca would be writing today, perhaps he would title this essay, Encouragements to the Budding Blogger.  It is good to read the works of wise men, Seneca says, but men long dead cannot think for you, you need to think for yourself, reading the classics for inspiration, not duplication.  Seneca advises us, “Take command, and utter some word prosperity will remember.”  Why only memorize maxims from dusty tomes?  Make some maxims yourself.  It is one thing to remember maxims, quite another to know the true meaning of the maxims. […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 2, Stoicism and Living a Godly Life

Philosophy is the study of wisdom, for as Seneca writes, “no man can live a happy life without the study of wisdom,” and “life is endurable even when we first begin our study of wisdom.” You must study philosophy every day, “you must persevere, you must develop new strength by continuous study, until that which is only a good inclination becomes a good habit.” “Philosophy molds and constructs the soul; it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do and what we should leave undone; philosophy sits at the helm of our ship and directs our course as we waver amid the uncertainties of life. Without philosophy, no one can live fearlessly or in peace of mind. Countless occurrences every hour call for advice, and such advice is to be found in philosophy.” […]

Evagrios the Solitary

Evagrios the Solitary, Blog 1, Asceticism and Stillness

Evagrios begins by quoting Jeremiah, “You shall not take a wife in this place.”  The primary meaning of this verse is advice not to bear sons and daughters in time of war and troubles, but Evagrios interprets this allegorically, that we should not bear worldly thoughts and desires in our heart.  These worldly thoughts and desires are weak and sickly and lead to death, and “have no place in heavenly life.” […]

Early Church Writing

Life of St Anthony, Blog 2, Living a monastic life

St Anthony compares those who follow evil spirits to those who follow Christ.  Those who follow the evil spirits show “tumult and confusion of thought, defection, hatred towards them who live a life of discipline, indifference, grief, fear of death, and disregard virtue.”  But those who follow Christ have “joy unspeakable, cheerfulness, courage, renewed strength, calmness of thought, and boldness and love toward God.” […]