Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

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. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 5, Blessed are the Peacemakers and the Persecuted

We must be one of the peacemakers. What is peace? Peace is a “loving disposition towards our neighbor.” What is the opposite of this love? The enemy of peace is “hate and wrath, anger and envy, harboring resentment as well as hypocrisy and the calamity of war.”
We are reminded that the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Plain directly reminds us that not only are the poor in spirit blessed, but also the poor and down and out, and in case we do not comprehend, Jesus in Luke warns us, “woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” So what is common between to these two Beatitudes and the words of Jesus on the Day of Judgement? St Gregory of Nyssa teaches us, “they all converge on the same goal,” they all show how the Love of God shines in our lives and in how we live our lives, and the love we show to our neighbor. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 4, Blessed are the clean of heart and the merciful

These sermons by St Gregory of Nyssa are cited twice in the Catholic Catechism in its discussion of the Commandment, DO NOT COVET, DO NOT ENVY.  St Gregory of Nyssa mentions envy in this Beatitude: “Some people covet glory, or wealth, or prominence.  Others lap up envy like some noxious food, and there are others (more holy) who desire things whose nature is good.”  He continues, “the Word calls blessed those who hunger not without qualification, but those whose desire is directed toward true justice.”

Those who hunger and thirst for justice need never be filled, the possession of virtue “always offers its disciples the fulness of its delights.  Therefore, God the Word promises to those who hunger for these things that they shall be filled, and in being filled their desire for virtue will not be dulled but rather kindled anew.” […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 3, Blessed are the Meek and Those Who Mourn

St Gregory of Nyssa teaches, “Blessed are those who are not easily turned towards the passionate movements of the soul, but who are steadied by reason.”  “To boast of riches or to be proud of one’s family, to have regard to fame and to think oneself above one’s neighbor, all these human honors destroy and shame the honor of the soul.  No righteous man would thus defile the purity of his soul.  When humility is well established, wrath will find no entrance into the soul.  If there is no wrath, our life will be in a settled state of peace.  This is true meekness.” […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 2, Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

St Gregory of Nyssa’s collection of sermons on the Beatitudes is quoted twice in the Catholic Catechism’s discussion on the commandment, DO NOT ENVY.  At first blush that seems odd, the Beatitudes do not directly mention envy, but when you think of the Beatitudes as positive commands, as encouragements to Love God and our neighbor more deeply, promising blessings to those whose hearts are humble, we realize that the connection between the Beatitudes is quite natural and not odd at all, for the commandment DO NOT envy is also a positive command to see our neighbor in the best light possible, to see our neighbor’s good fortune as our good fortune, to truly love our neighbor as ourselves. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 1, The Allegory of the Cave

The Beatitudes and St Nyssa’s sermons on the Beatitudes are both poetry of the soul.  St Nyssa asks us, “Who among us is a disciple of the Word, seeking to ascend with our Lord from the low ground, from superficial and ignoble thoughts to the spiritual mountain of sublime concentration?  This mountain leaves behind all shadows cast by the rising hills of wickedness, this mountain is lit up on all sides by the rays of true light, from the summit of this mountain everything that is invisible to those imprisoned in the CAVE may be seen the pure air of truth.” […]

AntiSemitism

John Chrysostom, Justin Martyr, and the Church Fathers Preach Against the Judaizers and the Jews

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. […]

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.” […]

Early Church Writing

Didache: Early Church Writing

What is the Way of Life? You shall Love God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and all of your mind and with all of your strength, and you should love your neighbor as yourself, and you should never do to others what you do not want done to yourself. Thus opens the first paragraph of the Didache, which may be among the most ancient patristic works surviving. […]

AntiSemitism

Epistle of Barnabas, Beginnings of Anti-Semitism?

The Epistle of Barnabas is a curious epistle that surprisingly has some messages that ring true with modern Christians. This epistle was likely written just after most of the books of the Bible, and was considered by some Christian communities as inspirational. Eusebius in his early History of the Church says the Epistle of Barnabas was “not canonical but disputed, yet familiar to most churchmen,” […]