Once Hillel’s wife had finished preparing a meal for Hillel and a guest, when a “poor man came by, stood at Hillel’s doorway, and said, ‘I am scheduled to marry today and have no provisions whatsoever.’ Hearing that, Hillel’s wife took the entire mean and gave it to the poor man. Then she kneaded fresh dough, cooked another pot of stew, and when it was ready, placed it before Hillel and his guest. Hillel asked, ‘My dear, why did you not bring it out sooner?’ She told him what happened. He said, ‘My dear, in asking about the delay, I meant to judge you not on the scale of guilt but on the scale of merit, because I was certain that everything you did, you did for the sake of Heaven.’” […]
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. […]
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) […]
We can benefit from pondering Rabbi Telushkin’s discussion on the differences between Hillel and Jesus in his book on Hillel, which are really his views on the differences between Christianity and Judaism. IMHO these differences are more cultural than spiritual, spiritually these are differences in emphasis.
One major difference is while Jesus places a great emphasis on prayer, Hillel emphasizes studying the Torah. “For Hillel, study is essential for knowing and fulfilling your religious obligations, because virtue is not achieved through good intentions alone.” […]
There was an incident involving a Gentile who came before Shammai and requested:
“Convert me to Judaism on condition that you will teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot.”
Shammai pushed the man away with the building rod he was holding.
Undeterred, the man then came before Hillel with the same request.
Hillel said to him, “That which is hateful unto you, do not do unto your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Now, go and study.” […]
Repeatedly St Ignatius begs the Romans not to seek a pardon to prevent his martyrdom. He writes his rhapsody, “in the fullness of life I am yearning for death with all the passion of a lover. Earthly longings have been crucified; in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, ‘Come to the Father’. There is no pleasure for me in any meats that perish, or in the delights of this life; I am fain for the bread of God, even the flesh of Jesus Christ, who is the seed of David; and for my drink I crave that Blood of His which is Love imperishable.” “I am His wheat, ground fine by the lion’s teeth to be made purest bread for Christ.” […]
The early writings of St Ignatius of Antioch gave the early church a shining example of martyrdom. He was arrested by the authorities for his faith, like St Paul, and was being escorted to Rome to be fed to the wild animals in the arena. During the stops in his journey he received delegations from the various churches who received epistles from him to be read to their flocks. In his epistles to the churches St Ignatius insists that there be unity in the churches, that the members respect the bishops. He also tells them that a liturgy or sacrament that is not blessed by the bishop is not valid, that the faithful should be loyal and obedient to their bishop. These epistles were revered by the early church and were quoted often by the church fathers. […]