I n t h e S p i r i t
A Catechesis in Preparation for the Third Millenium
Reverend Jonathan Morse, Ph.D.
Year 1999, Volume I.
The text for that date will be on top of the page.
1. Christians are baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" not in their names. Profession of faith of Pope Vigilius . This year our attention is focused on God the Father. In the Old Testament the terms God and Father are used interchangeably. It was not the Father that was revealed at Sinai, but the Word. In the Old Testament the Trinity was not yet revealed, but in the New Testament, with Jesus identifying Himself as the Son of the Father, we come to an understanding that there is only one God in Three Persons, Each person is truly, completely divine and distinct from the other but lives in a relationship with each other. This understanding of the Church is based in the teaching of the Old Testament: that there is only one God and the revelation of Christ in the New Testament. This mystery of the "consubstantial Trinity" is the center of Christian life and faith. Our faith in one God having one substance, essence and nature in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in relationship with one another provides the basis for our salvation.go back
2. "Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for the Lord speaks: Sons have I raised and reared." Isaiah 1:2 God is our Father for both individuals and humanity. In the Old Testament we see the paternal work of God: "When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. ... Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who rises an infant to his cheeks; Yet though I stooped to feed my child, (Hosea 11:1,3-4)" God taught His children to walk, and fed them in the desert during the Exodus. The Exodus out of Egypt is not a punishment but rather the act of a loving Father teaching His children about Himself and raising His children. Any father raising children has to provide corrective measures. These are examples of love. A loving Father disciplines the child so that the child will not fall into greater evils. "For whom the Lord loves he reproves and he chastises the son he favors. (Proverbs 3:12)"go back
3. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." Jeremiah 1:5 Every life comes from God and is a expression of divine love. No child is ever conceived apart from the love of God. God has a plan for each of us. "O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter. (Isaiah 64:7)" No matter how far we stray from the plan and no matter how we are treated by others in this world, we have a loving Father. "Even if my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me in. (Psalm 27:10)" This plan provides that we should spend all eternity with God in heaven. God the Father is the model father for all human fathers. When human fathers fail to give a good paternal example, it should not be understood that "fatherhood" is not the way to present the First Person, but rather humans failing to live up to their vocation.go back
4. "Advancing from faith and fear to knowledge, man knows how to say Lord, Lord; but not as His slave, he has learned to say, Our Father. Having set free the spirit of bondage, which produces fear, and advanced by love to adoption, he now reverences from love Him whom he feared before. For he no longer abstains from what he ought to abstain from out of fear, but out of love clings to the commandments. "The Spirit itself," it is said, "bears witness when we cry, Abba, Father." Theodotus, Selections from the Prophetic Scriptures, XIX. When Jesus is asked by the disciples how to pray, He gives the Our Father. The Father that Jesus uses for Father is Abba. This is the name that children use to address their Dad or Daddy. Jesus radically tells us that there is a new relationship between God and humanity. It is not one of fear but of love. It shows a close personal yet dependent relationship that we should have for God. This ability to call God Abba makes us brothers of Jesus. "My Father and your Father (John 20:17)."go back
5. "If any one say, "And how does the Father 'work,' who ceased on the seventh day from all His works?" let him learn the manner in which He "works." What then is the manner of His working? He cares for, He holds together all that has been made. Therefore when you behold the sun rising and the moon running in her path, the lakes, and fountains, and rivers, and rains, the course of nature in the seeds and in our own bodies and those of irrational beings, and all the rest by means of which this universe is made up, then learn the ceaseless working of the Father." John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, XXXVIII. Following in the rabbinical tradition Jesus teaches that the Father never stops working. To others, they taught that once creation was completed and God rested and so ceased His involvement. Jesus says that God cannot stop working because it is in the very nature of being a father. God continues to watch over His creation. Part of that love is the mystery of redemption. The Father is bringing about redemption through the sacrifice of Christ (Jn. 14:10).go back
6. "Why, then, do we make no representation of God the Father? The divine nature cannot be represented. If we had seen Him, as we have seen the Son, we could also make an image of Him." attributed to Pope Gregory II. For most of the history of the Church representations of the Father were not found in Christian art. The early Church was concerned that artistic presentations of the Father would be based upon Old Testament images like the Burning Bush. This would not be true because the Word (the Second Person) is the only person to reveal the Father. So it was the Son that was heard in the Burning Bush speaking to Moses. Later, when people had a better understanding of the Trinity, representations of the Father were permitted. Pope Benedict XIV in Sollicitudini Nostrae (1745) probably gave the earliest directives: "the following are commonly approved images of the Most Holy Trinity which can be permitted without any danger: 1)images which show the Person of God the Father in the form of an old man -- as told in Dn. 7:9 -- with his only Son, Christ, in his lap, and between the two of them the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove; 2) images which show two Persons separated by a small space, one being a man advanced in age, obviously the Father, and the other Christ with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove between them."go back
7. "If anyone should dare to make an image of the immaterial, bodiless, invisible, formless, and colorless Godhead, we reject it as a falsehood." John of Damascus, On the Divine Images Divinity is not something that can be represented in artwork. St. John of Damascus also notes, "It is good for men to clothe with shape and form according to our understanding that which is shapeless, formless, and simple." He also says, "Since the creation of the world, the invisible things of God are clearly seen by means of images ... the sun, light, burning rays..." He is saying that portrait images of the Father are not acceptable, which has been the Eastern tradition. The Father is symbolized by images like a bright circle representing divinity and a ray coming from the sun like object which is the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father.go back
8. "The Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre ... Looking up, he saw three men standing nearby ..." Genesis 18f. The Icon of the Hospitality of Abraham has been called an icon of the Old Testament Trinity. Whether the mysterious visitors represent a Trinitarian epiphany or the Word with two angels is not the issue because the icon is a presentation of an historical event. Iconographers in the manner in which they have presented this event have given their interpretation in light of their Trinitarian or Christological understanding.go back
9. "Mysteries are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God." Vatican I, Defilius, 4. God is beyond all understanding. All that we can understand and know about God is what God has revealed to us. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in creation. God has chosen to reveal Himself in creation as an artist. God does not exist in His creation. God has chosen to reveal Himself through the Word to the prophets and visionaries of the Old Testament. The climax of revelation has occurred in the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. There are no new Revelations, but we can grow in our understanding of the revelations given to us in the past. This is why it is good to meditate upon creation, study the Old and New Testaments and to study the writings of the Fathers and the magisterium of the Church. The God of Revelation expressed in the Bible is not the God of philosophy, the Supreme Mind, a working hypothesis to patch up our ignorance. The God of Revelation is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a divine communion of persons.go back
10. "God is called Almighty because He possesses rule and dominion over all things." Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles' Creed, 5. God is all powerful as the psalmist notes, "He does whatever he pleases (115:3)." Yet the power of God lies in the fact that God is love. God uses His power to create us and to take care of our needs in the manner that God knows is the best for us. As our Lord noted, that if an earthly father knows how to take care of his children how much more so does our heavenly father (Mt. 7:11). In sending the Son, God has revealed his innermost secret (I Cor. 2:7-16) that God Himself is an eternal exchange of love and His plan is for us to share in that love.go back
11. "Of the other titles, some are evidently names of His Authority, others of His Government of the world, and of this viewed under a twofold aspect, the one before the other in the Incarnation. For instance the Almighty, the King of Glory, or of The Ages, or of The Powers, or of The Beloved, or of Kings. Or again the Lord of Sabaoth, that is of Hosts, or of Powers, or of Lords; these are clearly titles belonging to His Authority. ... Now these are Names common to the Godhead, but the Proper Name of the Unoriginate is Father, and that of the unoriginately Begotten is Son, and that of the unbegottenly Proceeding or going forth is The Holy Ghost." St. Gregory Nazanzius, Fourth Theological Oration, XIX. When we pray in the Divine Liturgy the "Holy, Holy, Holy" we are singing a hymn in honor of the Father. He is the Lord of Sabaoth. We are praising Him for sending the Son, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." The expression Divine Liturgy means the public "work" of God. It is the participation of the people of God in the "work" of God. God's work is seen in the priestly ministry of Christ, which include worship, proclamation and charity.go back
12. "The mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise" The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom In each Divine Liturgy there is a meeting between the faithful and their God. The Liturgy begins with the prayer, "Blessed be the kingdom..." Here the blessing is our adoration. We are offering a sacrifice of praise. The Liturgy ends with a blessing. This is the gift of the Father to us. The fruit of participation in the Divine Liturgy is a renewed relationship between us and God, which is known as peace. The peace is given not because we deserve it but because God loves us. This is mercy. So out of God's mercy He gives us peace, which God first gives us so that we may offer a sacrifice of praise.go back
13. "Protect the fullness of Your church..." Ambon prayer of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom At each and every Divine Liturgy Christ becomes present. Not just part of Christ, but Christ in His fullness. Since Christ is in His fullness, the Church that He has gathered together is in its fullness at each Divine Liturgy. No one Liturgy is better than another because even in the simplest of Liturgies God is present.go back
14. "and all you, orthodox Christians, always, now and for ever and ever..." Great Entrance of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom The word "orthodox" means "right worship." Today, with a capital "O" it is a term used to designate those Churches in communion with a patriarch other than Rome. Yet, Eastern Catholic consider themselves to be orthodox with a small "o" because they give right worship to God. The reason for the use of the term "orthodox" to designate a Church is that they approach religion liturgically. Worship is first, and doctrine is second. To understand an Eastern Church one should not read about it, but rather as Philip said to Nathanael, "Come and see (John 1:46)."go back
15. "Only-begotten Son and Word of God, You are immortal, and You willed for our salvation to be made flesh of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary ..." Monogenes of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom This hymn which is attributed to the Emperor Justinian is expressive of the relationship between theology and liturgy. The liturgy is where one comes not only to learn the faith but to experience it. Theology is truly expressed liturgically. To be Eastern one has to live the liturgical life. This is not just participation in the Divine Liturgy but in the entire cycle of services. Vespers through the use of the Old Testament focuses on the "old" situation of humanity. It is truly a preparation for matins and the Divine Liturgy.go back
16. "This day without evening, without succession and without end is not unknown to Scripture, and it is the day that the Psalmist calls the eighth day, because it is outside this time of weeks. Thus whether you call it day, or whether you call it eternity, you express the same idea. Give this state the name of day; there are not several, but only one. ... that Scripture marks by the word "one" the day which is the type of eternity, the first fruits of days, the contemporary of light, the holy Lord's day honored by the Resurrection of our Lord." Basil the Great, Hexaemeron, II, 8. The weekly cycle (Monday through Sunday) is centered on the "eighth" day, the day of eternity, the day of the Resurrection. Saturday, the day of the old Jewish Sabbath, is now seen as a day of waiting for the coming of Christ, for we remember those who await the resurrection from the dead. Since Christ descended to them prior to His Resurrection, the Eucharist is always celebrated on Saturdays, even during the Great Fast, which is a season of waiting.go back
17. "If any one, under pretense of asceticism, shall fast on Sunday, let him be anathema." Canon 18 of Council of Ancyra We celebrate on every Sunday the Resurrection of our Lord. This is the pinnacle of salvation history and it is the climax of our week. It is both the first day of the week and it is the last day of the week, which is why it is referred to as the eighth day. On this day we celebrate Christ in the midst his people and so there can be no fasting while the bridegroom is present. (Luke 5:34). The Church is the place where we go to rest and to be healed just as the man who fell among thieves went to the inn, we go to the Church. (Augustine, Homilies on John, 8m 41.)go back
18. "For on the second day of the week, that is, the day after the first which we call the Lord's day, which also is called the second week-day, was made the firmament of Heaven.... The second day of the week then we ought to understand ... the Church of Christ in the Saints, the Church of Christ in those who are written in Heaven, the Church of Christ in those who to this world's temptations yield not." Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 48, 1. The tradition of the Byzantine Church is to remember after any major feast persons associated with the feast the next day. After the Nativity we remember St. Stephen the first martyr. Because of Christ's coming, we have the foundation of the Church on martyrs. If on Sundays we remember the Resurrection, on Mondays we remember all those around the throne of Christ in heaven.go back
19. "Read the book of Exodus, and observe the number of days between the first passover and the giving of the Law. God speaks to Moses in the desert of Sinai on the first day of the third month. Mark, then, this as one day of the month, and then observe what (among other things) the Lord said on that day: "Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day; for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai." The Law was accordingly given on the third day of the month." Augustine, Book II of Replies to Questions of Januarius, XVI, 30 On Tuesdays we remember in the weekly cycle St. John the Baptist. The forerunner prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah. When the Baptist appears in the Gospels he symbolically represents the Law, the Old Testament. John's disciples (followers of the Old Testament) ask of Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come ...? (Mt. 11:3)" We remember John in order to remember the preparation by God of humanity for the coming of the Messiah.go back
20. "Therefore this world of ours is composed of four elements - fire, water, heaven, earth. These four elements, therefore, form the quaternion of times or seasons. The sun, also, and the moon constitute throughout the space of the year four seasons .... And to proceed further still from that principle, lo, there are four living creatures before God's throne, four Gospels, four rivers flowing in paradise; four generations of people from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Christ the Lord, the Son of God; ... Christ Jesus, the originator of these things whereof we have above spoken, was taken prisoner by wicked hands, by a quaternion of soldiers. Therefore on account of His captivity by a quaternion,... therefore we make the fourth day a station." Victorinus, On the Creation of the World The number four is used to illustrate something that covers all. The four Gospels give us all we need to know. The four pillars hold up our world. Thus, it is fitting on the fourth day to commemorate the one who is the first Christian who personifies Christianity. Also on Wednesdays we remember the crucifixion of Christ because this event is fundamental to our faith. go back
21. "On the evening of which, at the close, namely, of the day which we call the fifth day of the week, the Lord ate the passover with His disciples," Augustine, Letter to Casulanus, XIII, 30. On Thursday we commemorate the apostles. In the Slavic Churches there is a special devotion to an "apostle" Nicholas, who is their patron.go back
22. "He was thereafter betrayed on the night which belonged to the sixth day of the week, the day (as is everywhere known) of His passion." Augustine, Letter to Casulanus, XIII, 30. On Fridays, since it is the day that our Lord was crucified, we commemorate his passion and death upon the cross. It is traditional that in order to personally join ourselves with the suffering of Christ that we sacrifice either by fasting or abstinence.go back
23. "The reason why the Church prefers to appoint the fourth and sixth days of the week for fasting, is found by considering the gospel narrative. There we find that on the fourth day of the week the Jews took counsel to put the Lord to death. One day having intervened, - on the evening of which, at the close, namely, of the day which we call the fifth day of the week, the Lord ate the passover with His disciples, - He was thereafter betrayed on the night which belonged to the sixth day of the week, the day (as is everywhere known) of His passion." Augustine, Letter to Casulanus, XIII, 30. The traditional days of fasting and abstinence in the Eastern Churches are Wednesdays and Fridays. Because of their association with the death of Christ during the Great Fast (Lent), we are called to contemplate our sinfulness. Because it was our sins that caused Christ to be crucified, we were for awhile denied the presence of Christ in the world. (The time from His death to His Resurrection). Therefore the Liturgy is not celebrated until the beginning of the next day. The Church has a vespers Liturgy with communion on the evenings of Wednesday and Fridays, which is technically Thursday and Saturday. This Liturgy is called the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.go back
24. "The next day is the Jewish Sabbath, on which day Christ's body rested in the grave, as in the original fashioning of the world God rested on that day from all His works.... 'Once in the year, namely at Easter, all Christians observe the seventh day of the week by fasting, in memory of the mourning with which the disciples, as men bereaved, lamented the death of the Lord ... thus providing a symbolic representation of both events, - of the disciples' sorrow on one seventh day in the year, and of the blessing of repose on all the others." Augustine, Letter to Casulanus, XIII, 31. Saturday is associated with grieving. One is the grieving of the apostles on the Saturday we call "Holy." The other is the death of Lazarus which is also celebrated on a Saturday. Therefore it is fitting to remember all those who have died in the faith, especially the martyrs.go back
25. "Many are the martyrdoms which are made without shedding of blood. Not to desire other men's goods; to wish to have the benefit of martyrdom; to bridle the tongue, you ought to make yourself humble; not willingly to use force, nor to return force used against you, you will be a patient mind, understand that you are a martyr." Commodianus, In Favor of Christian Discipline, XLVIII In the earliest days of the Church, martyrs were honored because they gave up their lives up for Christ. They were the heroes and all those who professed to be Christians hoped that if the challenge was offered to them they would accept the crown of martyrdom, a sure guarantee of eternal life. When Christians were no longer persecuted, the Church looked for new heroes and role models. The new martyrs were those who cast off the lifestyle of this world. They gave up everything to follow Christ. The new martyrs were the hermits, the monks and the nuns.go back
26. "In fact, the Life of Virginity seems to be an actual representation of the blessedness in the world to come, showing as it does in itself so many signs of the presence of those expected blessings which are reserved for us there. That the truth of this statement may be perceived, we will verify it thus. It is so, first, because a man who has thus died once for all to sin lives for the future to God; he brings forth no more fruit unto death; and having so far as in him lies made an end of this life within him according to the flesh, he awaits thenceforth the expected blessing of the manifestation of the great God, refraining from putting any distance between himself and this coming of God by an intervening posterity: secondly, because he enjoys even in this present life a certain exquisite glory of all the blessed results of our resurrection." Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity, 13. The new martyrdom, the ultimate sacrifice of the things of this world was virginity. The Fathers always asserted that the praise of virginity did not mean that marriage was not honorable. Virginity was a gift from God which was not offered to all. Those few to whom it was offered had to accept it. As St. Jerome noted, "Many are called but few persevere.(Against Jovinianus, I, 33.)" The chaste life is a foretaste of the heavenly blessings and a restoration to the way things were in Paradise, since Adam and Eve were virgins until they were expelled. The virgin was to be a light to the community. They are free from worldly concerns to witness Christ as witnessed. They are freed from the pains of this world to show the community the joy of the next.go back
I n t h e S p i r i t
A Catechesis in Preparation for the Third Millenium
Reverend Jonathan Morse, Ph.D.
The text for that date will be on top of the page.
1. The good and the gentle pass away all too
soon; the bad prolong their life for years. The Giver of all good, methinks,
removes the former before their time from the troubles of humanity; He frees
them like victors from their contests and transports them to the better life,
that life which, free from death, sorrow and care, is the prize of them that
contend for virtue. Letter of Theodoretus, to Domnus, bishop of Antioch, written
on the death of Cyril, bishop of Alexandria. The Fathers of our Church found the
basis for Christian morality in the New Testament understanding of mankind and
its relationship to God. Because the Son of God became man in His Incarnation,
He assumed our entire nature. Because of His union with us, our nature has been
filled with the Holy Spirit, glorified and enthroned at the Father's right hand.
Each believer shares directly in this deifying union through baptism, becoming
a temple of the indwelling God.
The doctrines we believe are not unrelated to the way we live. Specifically, morality for Christians is a consequence of our sanctification in Christ. It is because we are being transformed into sharers of the divine nature, that righteous living is the only acceptable life style for Christians. Moral behavior is the outward expression of one's inner beliefs concerning oneself and the purpose of human existence. go back
2. "It is better for me to die in behalf
of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. Him, I seek, who
died for us. Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. ... Permit me to be an
imitator of the passion of my God." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the
Romans, 6. Morality is more than rules and regulations - Morality is "putting
on Christ." For the First Christians, "to take up the Cross and follow
Christ," very often meant that literally. The Christian Church was not yet
accepted by the civil authorities. Many had to suffer martyrdom. Martyrdom
comes from the Greek word "Witness." The martyrs witnessed their
belief in Christ before the whole world.
The possibility that we might have to die for our belief in Christ is always part of the risk of being a Christian. However, the point is that Jesus Christ is more important than life itself.go back
3. "The provisions for the Lord's way are
the Lord's beatitudes." Excerpts of Theodotus XII. There are three things
that we have to examine in any moral situation:
1) The Motive
Why are we doing it? Are we doing good for an evil intention? Example: Are we being nice to someone to get something from them that they would not ordinarily give us. Are we doing evil for a good intention? Example: World War II involved the killing of people to save the world from Hitler. The Motive in and of itself can make an act moral or immoral or it could just be a contributing factor in the discernment process.
2) The Situation
God gave humanity free will. The ability to be a self-determining creature. God gave us freedom so that we could truly love God. If we were not free we could not truly love.
If a person is not free in making a decision, to the degree they are not free is the degree to which they are not responsible. A person who has a gun to their head is less free than one who does not.
3) The Object of Value
These are the laws (natural, human or divine) that are given to regulate the conduct of humanity. Some laws are absolute (cannot be changed) and some are not. Example: eating meat on Fridays or the prohibition in the early Church against women wearing makeup. Sometimes a law may be legitimately broken, example self-defense or running a red light on the way to the hospital when transporting someone who is dying. go back
4. "The first who enacted these laws and
delivered them to Moses, was the God who was the Creator of the world. For It
became the Creator of the universe, after laying down laws for its government,
to confer upon His words a power which might subdue all men in every part of the
earth." Origen, Against Celsus, I, 18. Law is the attempt on the part of a
society, an organization, or a group to guide its members to the fulfillment of
its purpose. The Church makes laws to help people in becoming God-like so as to
receive the reward of eternal life.
The general laws which govern people's relationships with persons, places and things can be classified as natural, human and divine.
Natural Law: law which belongs to the nature of a thing. The human law of survival (not to endanger one's own life.) Sexual relationships are properly heterosexual.
Human Law: laws made by people and designed to enable them to express their humanity in the best possible way. (Society is a covenentual relationship. I will not hit you so that you will not hit me. Governments are human covenants.)
Divine Law: From the Christian perspective, law which commands Christians to love their neighbor in order to fulfill the command of Christ to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Examples of divine law, would be the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount including the Beatitudes. Church law may be related. Church law is a code which spells out the minimal obligations of Church members, according to their state in the Church (ie nuns have different laws from married couples) It attempts to express what it means to be a Christian in the real world in particular times and in particular places. Therefore, Church laws may change. go back
5. "Let us hearken with strict attention
unto what is said. For though it was spoken unto them, it was written for the
sake also of all men afterwards. And accordingly on this account, though He had
His disciples in His mind in His public preaching, yet unto them He limits not
His sayings, but applies all His words of blessing without restriction. Thus He
said not, "Blessed are ye, if ye become poor," but "Blessed are
the poor." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 15, 2. Blessed are the
poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
These are not people who are financially poor. (The definition of rich in scripture is owning two cloaks) They are the "poor of Yahweh" in the Old Testament called anawim. They were the people who had the ATTITUDE that everything they have comes from God. If we have this same attitude then we receive the reward which is the kingdom of heaven. This expression means not just everlasting life, but a relationship with God.
The Beatitudes talk about the attitudes that we are supposed to have. go back
6. "For He said not, 'This or that person,'
but 'they who do so, are all of them blessed.' So that though thou be a slave,
a beggar, in poverty, a stranger, unlearned, there is nothing to hinder thee
from being blessed, if thou emulate this virtue." John Chrysostom, Homilies
on Matthew, 15, 3. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
When we are separated from those we love, there is sorrow. When we discover that we have separated ourselves from God there is sorrow. This sorrow leads to a metanoia, a change of heart. (The reason the bow is made in church is called a "metany" is based on this. We bow because we acknowledge our sinfulness. We make the sign of the Cross, which is Christ raising us up.) One of the practices we have in confession is that the priest in absolution takes his epitrakhil (stole) and places it over the head and neck of the penitent. The stole represents the right hand of God. God is "placing" his hand around the person and saying you are forgiven, I forgive you and now forget about it. It is in this we are comforted. go back
7. "For neither wealth, nor power, nor
royalty itself, had so much power to exalt men, as the things which they
possessed in all fullness." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 15, 3.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
This may not be an actual beatitude since it is not consistent with the other texts, but the idea of meekness is humility. This is though a prophetic statment that those who are humble and follow God shall be given the promised land, which illustrates Jesus as a prophet. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Hunger and thirst are very strong desires. If we have this kind of desire to be good, we will be. go back
8 "It seems indeed to be a sort of equal
recompense, but it is a far greater thing than the act of goodness. For whereas
they themselves show mercy as men, they obtain mercy from the God of all; and it
is not the same thing, man's mercy, and God's; but as wide as is the interval
between wickedness and goodness, so far is the one of these removed from the
other." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 15, 6. Blessed are the
merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
The only way we can be forgiven is to forgive. (As we pray in the Our Father: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.) We need a forgiving attitude of total forgiveness. How many times? 7 x 70 times. Seven is a symbolic number of completion. So complete forgiveness in abundance is the meaning of the expression. go back
9. "Now He here calls "pure,"
either those who have attained unto all virtue, and are not conscious to
themselves of any evil; or those who live in temperance. For there is nothing
which we need so much in order to see God, as this last virtue." John
Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 15, 6. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they
will see God.
Our number one priority in everything is God. People marry to get closer to God. We get married or become religious because it makes us a better person, more God-like.
If we have God as the focus of our life, we shall have the relationship with God and this will allow us to see God in his works here and in the age to come. go back
10. "Here He not only takes away altogether
our own strife and hatred amongst ourselves, but He requires besides this
something more, namely, that we should set at one again others, who are at
strife. And again, the reward which He annexes is spiritual. Of what kind then
is it. 'For they shall be called the children of God.' Ysa, for this became
the work of the Only Begotten, to unite the divided, and to reconcile the
alienated. Then, lest you should imagine peace in all cases a blessing, He has
added, 'Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 15, 6. Blessed are the peacemakers, for
they will be called sons of God.
To be God-like is to establish peace among people and with God. While it is desirable to be God-like, it carries the price of rejection by the rest of humanity. go back
11. "Wherein the very things which all
others avoid, these He declares to be desirable; I mean, being poor, mourning,
persecution, evil report." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 15, 6.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven.
This is the "goody-two shoes" beatitude. If you are good for the sake of being good - natural and human law, you will achieve heaven. This is because natural and human laws also come from God. The person who is good without knowing God can still be saved. go back
12. "However, lest you should think that
the mere fact of being evil spoken of makes men blessed, He has set two
limitations; when it is for His sake, and when the things that are said are
false: for without these, he who is evil spoken of, so far from being blessed,
is miserable." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 15, 6. Blessed are you
when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil word against
you falsely because of Me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in
A true Christian will be persecuted for being a Christian. The beatitudes continue with the admonition in Luke "Beware when men speak well of you. They treated the false prophets in the same way." If people are telling you that you are good, what standards are they basing this upon. When your peers tell you that you are good, are they praising the fact that you have become like them? Is this good? Peers can raise us up or tear us down. go back
13. "But to conquer the mind, and to restrain anger, is the part of the bravest man; and these things he never did or could do: for one who does these things I do not compare with excellent men, but I judge him to be most like to a God." Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, 1, 9. The Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the Beatitudes, gives Jesus' moral teachings. While only selecting some of the Sermon here, in each of them Jesus gives the Old Testament law then His law and then shows the relationship between them both. Anger Old Testament: You have heard the commandment, you shall not kill; and whoever kills is liable to judgement. Christ: But, I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement. Relationship: If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother. Comment: Jesus is equating murder with anger because it is in anger that murder begins. We have to control our inner attitudes as well as our outer actions. The first priority before even worshipping God is reconciliation because one cannot truly offer worship when one harbors evil feelings about someone created in the image of God. go back
14 "For there are three things which go to complete sin: the suggestion of, the taking pleasure in, and the consenting to. Suggestion takes place either by means of memory, or by means of the bodily senses, when we see, or hear, or smell, or taste, or touch anything. And if it give us pleasure to enjoy this, this pleasure, if illicit, must be restrained. Just as when we are fasting, and on seeing food the appetite of the palate is stirred up, this does not happen without pleasure; but we do not consent to this liking, and we repress it by the right of reason, which has the supremacy. But if consent shall take place, the sin will be complete, known to God in our heart, although it may not become known to men by deed." Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, I,12, 34. Adultery Old Testament: You have heard the commandment, you shall not commit adultery. Jesus: What I say to you is anyone who looks lustfully at a woman, commits adultery with her in his heart. Relationship: It is better to lose one of your members (eye, arm) than to risk Gehenna. Comment. Lust works for both men and women. Looking lustfully at a person is to look upon a person as an object of gratification, not as a person you love. Lust turns a person into an object to be used. A person in the image and likeness should be treated as a person. go back
15 "If you are compelled to swear, know that it comes of a necessity arising from the infirmity of those whom you are trying to persuade of something; which infirmity is certainly an evil, from which we daily pray to be delivered, when we say, 'Deliver us from evil." Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, I,17, 51. Oaths Old Testament: Do not take a false oath Jesus: Do not swear at all Relationship: Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no everything else comes from the evil one Comment. Christians should be known to be truthful in all things. For when they speak by their having Christ within, they bring Christ into all their dealings. Christ becomes the witness to all our words. go back
16 "For ye cannot serve two masters. But the man is attempting to serve two masters who seeks both the kingdom of God as a great good, and these temporal things. He will not, however, be able to have a single eye, and to serve the Lord God alone, unless he take all other things, so far as they are necessary, for the sake of this one thing, i.e. for the sake of the kingdom of God." Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, I,17, 56. Money Old Testament: No one can serve two Masters Jesus: You cannot serve God and mammon Relationship: Mammon is an aramaic word meaning wealth or property. You are either with God or not. The story of Lot's wife illustrates this. When leaving the city of Sodom, she turned back. You are either following God or not. (It is like being pregnant). go back
17 "Love the Lord, and so learn to love yourselves; that when by loving the Lord you shall have loved yourselves, you may securely love your neighbor as yourselves. For when I find a man that does not love himself, how shall I commit his neighbor whom he should love as himself to him? And who is there, you will say, who does not love himself?" Augustine, Sermon on the Wedding Garment, 6. All of this can be summarized in the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart... Love your neighbor as yourself (Implied is a third commandment of loving self, because if you do not love self you cannot love another) go back
18 "Woe to the day on which I was born
into the world! ... Woe to my tongue and my lips, which have brought forth and
spoken vanity, detraction, falsehood, ignorance, derision, idle tales, craft,
and hypocrisy! Woe to mine eyes, which have looked upon scandalous things! Woe
to mine ears, which have delighted in the words of slanderers! Woe to my hands,
which have seized what did not of right belong to them!... Woe to my feet, which
have too often walked in ways displeasing to God! Woe to my body; and woe to my
miserable soul, which has already turned aside from God its Maker! What shall I
do when I arrive at that place where I must stand before the most righteous
Judge, and when He shall call me to account for the works which I have heaped up
in my youth? Woe to every man dying in his sins! Assuredly that same dreadful
hour, which came upon my father Jacob, when his soul was flying forth from his
body, Is now, behold, near at hand for me. Oh! how wretched I am this day, and
worthy of lamentation! But God alone is the disposer of my soul and body; He
also will deal with them after His own good pleasure." History of Saint
Joseph the Carpenter, 16. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross comments on a common
experience of near death terminally ill patients.
Patients commonly report that they experience an instantaneous reviewing of their lives, "like you have all of your memory at once, including all the things you have forgotten. ...
"When you come to this point, you see there are only two things that are relevant: the service you have rendered to others, and love. All those things we think are important, like fame, money, prestige, and power are insignificant.
"And you have an opportunity to judge yourself, to condemn your self. The incredible thing to me, as a not formally religious person, is this incredible fairness, that everybody has the opportunity to judge and evaluate their own life." Being a good person is an art. It is not just a matter of obeying rules or doing what the law says. Becoming a good person is very much like becoming an Olympic athlete (reminiscent of St. Paul running the race). The athlete follows the rules of the game, team regulations, the physical laws for staying in shape. But rules do not make people athletes. go back
19 "The origin and root of sin is what is
in our own control and our free will." Basil the Great, Homily 9.
The Scriptures portray the heart of sin as disobedience. (Gn 3; Rm 5) We strike out on our own, departing from the way of life indicated by God. This affects our relationship with God and with others. By achieving our momentary goal - autonomy - we find that is all we have achieved. (Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden). We have lost the fullness of life which comes from communion with God and with others.
Eastern Catholic thinkers today see sin as more of a wounding of humanity than an offense against God. Since the heart of human nature is the call to live in fellowship with God and one another, sin is seen essentially as individualism. We continually attempt to fulfill our nature apart from communion with God and increasingly from fellowship with others. As a result it is as if we have been wounded to the heart, condemned to the individuality we prize and that need for survival which fragments humanity. In our pursuit of fulfillment, we stray from the only path which will get us there: fellowship with God and with His creatures. We have in fact become sinners: people alienated from God is an accepted part of life. We have become disoriented and the result of this wandering astray is not so much that God is hurt, but that we are. go back
20 "For it is the freedom of each one that
makes true goodness and reveals real wickedness." Clement of Alexandria as
found in Maximos Sermon 55. The word most commonly used for sin in the Old
Testament means to "miss" "fail" and "sinner."
The basic understanding of this means to "miss the mark," to fail,
both spiritual and moral failure, either towards one's fellow human being or
toward God (Gn 20:9, Lm 5:7) It was an action, thought or attitude which
destroyed a person's relationship with God. It builds a barrier between Him and
Further, Old Testament society was understood to be a whole. No individual lived alone; in every part of his life and his being the individual and the community were the same entity. A person took his complete identity from the community. Not simply an intellectual concept, this corporate identity was the daily experience for the Israelites. So when an individual sinned, he affected the relationship of Yahweh with the whole of society. Sin was an act of perverted freedom. go back
21 "The sinner shall heap sin upon sin."
Pope Fabian, Second Epistle, II. The effects of sin are as serious as sin
itself. Sin is never an isolated and easily forgotten act. It sets into motion
a whole series of consequences (Cf. Book of Judges) It causes more sin and guilt
and more pain and then the whole series over and over again.
All disasters in society in personal lives, and in creation result in some mysterious way from the sins of human beings.
Our Lord says that the rocks and stones themselves would shout out if humanity failed to acknowledge him as the Messiah. Mankind in its original and in its ongoing creation comes from the ground. Adam was built up from the ground. We were created in our mother's womb, yet we sustain ourselves on products from the ground. When sin entered, all of nature was affected, thrown out of balance. If Adam and Eve had not sinned then nature would have been in its proper state. Christ came to restore all of nature - to restore things to the way they were in paradise - recapitulation. If it was not for sin there would be no death. But since Christ has begun the process of recapitulation, St. Paul and St. John Chrysostom could both ask, "Death where is your sting?" go back
22 "Who is that father to be understood by
us to be? God, surely: no one is so truly a Father; no one so rich in paternal
love. He, then, will receive you, His own son, back, even if you have squandered
what you had received from Him, even if you return naked - just because you have
returned; and will joy more over your return than over the sobriety of the
other; but only if you heartily repent - if you compare your own hunger with the
plenty of your Father's "hired servants" - if you leave behind you the
swine, that unclean herd - if you again seek your Father, offended though He be,
saying, "I have sinned, nor am worthy any longer to be called Thine."
Confession of sins lightens, as much as dissimulation aggravates them; for
confession is counseled by (a desire to make) satisfaction; dissimulation by
contumacy." Tertullian, On Repentance, 8. The Gospels express Jesus'
attitude toward sin:
* Jesus associates with the sinner not because he condones sin but in order to call the sinner personally to repentance. He said, "People who are in good health do not need a doctor; sick people do." (Mt 9:12)
* Jesus teaches the malice of sin. He says that comes from and defiles a person's heart. (Mt 15:11)
* Sin is like wandering from the Father's house. But God always forgives sin if the sinner is truly repentant and asks for forgiveness. There is joy in heaven at the return of the sinner (Lk 15)
* Through his use of exorcisms Jesus proved his power over the evil one. Many people fail to realize that the battle is already over. God does not exist in time, but rather in an eternal now. Creation and the last judgement have already occurred to God. Satan has lost. go back
23 "Moreover by means of confession of
sins, their absolution is granted: for 'I said: I will confess against myself my
sin to the Lord: and You forgavet the iniquity of my heart;' and again: Declare
your iniquities first, that you may be justified." John Cassian,
Conference of Abbot Pinufius On the End of Penitence and the Marks of
Satisfaction, 8. The Church continues Jesus' ministry of reconciling through
the mystery of Confession.
There are five steps necessary for a good confession:
1) Examination of conscience
Taking an honest look at what we have done and what we have failed to do.
We cannot be forgiven when we are not sorry for what we have done.
3)Firm purpose of amendment
We do not really want to be forgiven unless we s eriously intend not to do the same thing again.
4) Confession to a priest
Why confession is oral is for two reasons. One Jesus said to confess your sins. Because sins against the community need to be confessed to the community. Secondly, it is by placing the sins outside of ourselves that we accept responsibility for them.
5) Perform the penance.
Those sins we commit against other people we should also confess them to the person we hurt. go back
24 "Use wine, therefore, sparingly, in
order that the weakness of the body may not increase, not for pleasurable
excitement, for each alike kindles a flame, both wine and youth. Let fasts also
put a bridle on tender age, and spare diet restrain the unsubdued appetites with
a kind of rein. Let reason check, hope subdue, and fear curb them. For he who
knows not how to govern his desires, like a man run away with by wild horses, is
overthrown, bruised, torn, and injured." Ambrose, Concerning Virgins, III,
2. In the Eastern Church all things are good in moderation. Fear is good
because it keeps us out of trouble. With no fear we could kill ourselves, and
with too much fear we would have to hide in a closet.
Food is good for without it we would die. Gluttony is bad. The moderating balance is good health.
Drinking is good. St. Paul says a little is good for a stomach ailment. Drunkenness is bad. The moderating element is self-control.
Sex is good for without it there would be no procreation. Promiscuity is bad. The moderating element for sex is marriage.
The only real guide for responsible action in situations which are not clearly either seriously right or seriously wrong, or are clearly not the better or more human thing to do, is to follow one's conscience. go back
25 "For we have residing
in our conscience an uncorrupt and true judge who sometimes, when all are wrong,
is the only person not deceived as to the state of our purity." John
Cassian, The First Conference of Abbot Theonas On Relaxation during the 50 days,
22. Conscience is not simply a feeling or an opinion. Conscience is a
conviction. It is a moral judgement that impels us to take a certain action.
It may work through our emotions: anger at injustice, compassion with suffering,
love for beauty, but it is not an emotion itself. It is a genuine and sincere
conviction that to do this action is right and to do another action is wrong.
Not all people have consciences. The consciences of children and adolescents are in the state of formation. They are easily pliable and are learning by trial and error. Some people though never develop a conscience. They seek only their own comfort and are moral cripples, unable to play a helpful role in society.
As Vatican II said:
Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of humanity in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals and from social relationships.
Hence the more a correct conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. (Church in the Modern World 16)
Conscience is where we talk with God. go back
26 "It is delightful to pass the day in discourse, and, by the (study of the sacred) parables, to train the conscience to the apprehension of the divine precepts." Cyprian, First Epistle, 1. Informed Conscience: People need to be properly informed so that he can make a reasonably accurate decision concerning a proposed course of action. Lack of information, which includes not only the facts of the case but the values involved, can lead to a decision which is not in conformity with the human thing to do because our human inclinations direct us to act in self-interest; that is to act to achieve an end which is immediately useful to ourselves regardless of the principles involved or the final good of self or society. Informing conscience: One does so by listening to the judgments on human worth and ultimate values made by those in a position to make such judgements: the people who most nearly approach the ideal of what it means to be human, the spokesperson for the idea of society in which a person lives, the agencies like the Church, whose basic concerns are directed toward achieving the human ideal, and those individuals whose concern for basic human rights leads them to speak out in behalf of those human rights. go back
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