Philokalia Volume 1

Philokalia, On the Character of Men and the Virtuous Life

What is our most precious possession? “A virtuous way of life, conforming to God’s will, surpasses all wealth. When you reflect on this and keep in your mind constantly, you will not grumble, whine or blame anyone, but will thank God for everything, seeing that those who rely on repute and riches are worse off than yourself.”(4) “The more frugal a man’s life, the happier he is, for he is not troubled by a host of cares.” We should seek the prosperity that fills our soul rather than our pocket, for chasing after new cars and castles and country clubs will only add to the cares of this world. Should we pray to God to fill our pockets, and should we complain to God when our pockets are not filled, complaining how our prayers are never answered? Should our prayers be a shopping list we hand to God? Thieves can steal our wealth, but never our virtue. Here the Philokalia teaches that we should never consider it a loss when we lose our children, our money, or our possessions, but be thankful for all the God has loaned to us for our use, realizing it could be taken away at any time. […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Blog 3, Justin Is Converted

Justin asks him why he needs philosophy when he can profit from Moses, his lawgiver, and the prophets. Trypho responds, “Why not? Do not the philosophers turn every discourse on God? Do not questions continually arise on God’s unity and providence? Is it not truly the duty of philosophy to investigate the Deity?”

How do the Jewish Scriptures and Greek philosophy relate to the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they conflict with the Gospel? Can Christians profitably study Jewish Scripture and Greek philosophy? These are the questions this dialogue explores, and St Justin the Martyr was one of the first of apostolic fathers to explore these issues. When you read teachings you have read many times before, remind yourself, you are probably reading the original source. […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr’s Second Apology to Senate, Quoting Xenophon’s Socrates, Blog 2

Justin compares Jesus to Socrates, who was accused of the same crimes as the Christians, being accused of atheism and impiety, and of corrupting the youth.  The Greeks accused Socrates “of introducing new divinities, and did not consider those to be gods that the state recognized.  In the Republic he cast out from the state both Homer and the rest of the poets, and taught men to reject the wicked demons and those who did the things which the poet related.”  The early Church Fathers, including Justin, did not deny the existence of the pagan gods, rather they saw them as demons active in the world.  But Jesus was mightier than Socrates, whereas “no one trusted in Socrates so as to die for his doctrine,” many willingly believes and are martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Blog 1, First Apology to the Emperor

Justin opens his apology, “Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow the opinions of the ancients if these be worthless,” a surprising argument, given the weight that the Romans placed on the ancient traditions.  Right belief matters, “the lover of truth should choose to do and say what is right, by all means, and if threatened with death,” be willing to lay down his own life.

Justin quotes Plato, “unless both the rulers and the ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.”  The ancients believed that to pursue philosophy was to seek to live a godly life.  Justin also echoes Plato when he says “rulers should rule in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy,” a somewhat ironic wish since under the rule of the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius he would suffer a martyr’s death. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 5 Seeing life’s misfortunes through the eyes of our neighbor

Marcus Aurelius tells us that we should always remember that if men do not do right, we should assume that “they do so involuntarily and in ignorance. For as every soul is unwillingly deprived of the truth, so also is it unwillingly deprived of the power behaving as it should.”

We should “consider that we also do many things wrong, that we are merely men, that even when we refrain from certain faults, we still have the disposition to commit them, either through cowardice, concern about reputation, or some other mean motive.” […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 4 Be critical of yourself, be gracious towards your neighbor

Marcus Aurelius begins Book IX with “Injustice is impiety.”  Since universal nature has made rational animals to help one another rather to attack each other, “he who transgresses her will is clearly guilty of impiety toward the highest divinity.  And he who lies is also guilty of impiety towards the highest divinity. . . He who lies intentionally is guilty of impiety inasmuch as he acts unjustly by deceiving.” […]