Remembrance, Thanksgiving, Salvation

This, my son, is how you should begin your life according to God. You should continually and unceasingly call to mind all the blessings which God in His love has bestowed upon you in the past, and still bestows for the salvation of your soul. You must not let forgetfulness of evil or laziness make you grow unmindful of these many and great blessings, and so pass the rest of your life uselessly and ungratefully. For this kind of continual recollection, pricking the heart like a spur, moves it constantly to confession and humility, to thanksgiving with a contrite soul, and to all forms of sincere effort, repaying God through its virtue and holiness. In this way the heart meditates constantly and conscientiously on the words from the Psalms: “What shall I give to the Lord in return for all His benefits towards me?”

Thus the soul recalls the blessings of God’s love which it has received from the moment it came into existence: how it has often been delivered from dangers; how in spite of having often fallen by its own free choice into great evils and sins, it was not justly given up to destruction and death at the hands of the spirits of deception; and how God with long-suffering overlooked its offences and protected it, awaiting its return. It also recalls that although through the passions it had become the willing servant of hostile and malicious spirits, He sustained it, guarding it and in all ways providing for it; and finally that He guided it with a clear sign to the path of salvation, and inspired it with the love of the ascetic life. So He gave it the strength gladly to abandon the world and all the deceitfulness of worldly pleasure, adorning it with the angelic habit of the monastic order, and providing for it to be received by holy men in an organized brotherhood.

Can any man consciously call these things to mind and not be moved always to contrition of heart? Having so many pledges from past blessings, will he not always have firm hope, in spite of the fact that he himself has so far done nothing good? He will say to himself: “Though I have done nothing good and have committed many sins before Him, living in uncleanness of the flesh and indulging in many other vices, yet He did not deal with me according to my sins, or reward me according to my iniquities, but gave me all these gifts of grace for my salvation. If, then, from now onwards I give myself completely to His service, living in all purity and acquiring the virtues, how many holy and spiritual gifts will He not grant me, strengthening me in every good work, guiding and leading me aright.” If a man always thinks in this way and does not forget God’s blessings, he encourages and urges himself on to the practice of every virtue and of every righteous work, always ready, always eager to do the will of God.

St Mark the Ascetic. From the Letter to Nicolas the Solitary. Philokalia 1.148-149

On Keats

A garden in a garden : a green spot
        Where all is green : most fitting slumber-place
        For the strong man grown weary of a race
Soon over. Unto him a goodly lot
Hath fallen in fertile ground ; there thorns are not,
        But his own daisies ; silence, full of grace,
        Surely hath shed a quiet on his face ;
His earth is but sweet leaves that fall and rot.
What was his record of himself, ere he
        Went from us? ‘Here lies one whose name was writ
        In water.’ While the chilly shadows flit
        Of sweet St. Agnes’ Eve, while basil springs–
        His name, in every humble heart that sings,
Shall be a fountain of love, verily.

Christina Georgina Rossetti. 18 January 1849 (Eve of St. Agnes)

A Pearl of a Prayer

In the case of all who have passed from this world lacking a virtuous life and having had no faith, be an advocate for them, Lord, for the sake of the body which You took from them, so that from the single united body of the world we may offer up praise to Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the kingdom of heaven, an unending source of eternal delight.

St Isaac the Syrian. II/V.30

The Secret Rose

Far-off, most secret, and inviolate Rose,
Enfold me in my hour of hours; where those
Who sought thee in the Holy Sepulchre,
Or in the wine-vat, dwell beyond the stir
And tumult of defeated dreams; and deep
Among pale eyelids, heavy with the sleep
Men have named beauty. Thy great leaves enfold
The ancient beards, the helms of ruby and gold
Of the crowned Magi; and the king whose eyes
Saw the Pierced Hands and Rood of elder rise
In Druid vapour and make the torches dim;
Till vain frenzy awoke and he died; and him
Who met Fand walking among flaming dew
By a grey shore where the wind never blew,
And lost the world and Emer for a kiss;
And him who drove the gods out of their liss,
And till a hundred morns had flowered red
Feasted, and wept the barrows of the dead;
And the proud dreaming king who flung the crown
And sorrow away, and calling bard and clown
Dwelt among wine-stained wanderers in deep woods;
And him who sold tillage, and house, and goods,
And sought through lands and islands numberless years,
Until he found, with laughter and with tears,
A woman of so shining loveliness
That men threshed corn at midnight by a tress,
A little stolen tress. I, too, await
The hour of thy great wind of love and hate.
When shall the stars be blown about the sky,
Like the sparks blown out of a smithy, and die?
Surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows,
Far-off, most secret, and inviolate Rose?

William Butler Yeats. 1899.

A prayer of the ♥

O lorde Jhesu Cryste I commende my
to thy love that ytt may enter into thy
by love and spirituall delectacyon
and I beseche the good lorde to inflame
myn ardently with thy love and so
to kyndle myn with the blessyd
love of the good lorde that never
hereafter I fele inordynately
any ly joye or carnall

For each read “heart,” of course. From Robert Brygandyne’s prayer book, reign of Henry VIII. See Eamon Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers 1240-1570 Yale University Press, 2006), plate 105 and pages 161-162. This is a beautiful book, illustrated with and full of discussion of English prayer books, mostly late pre-Reformation ones.

Eastern Orthodoxy in the ESV Study Bible

My copy of the ESV Study Bible arrived this week. It is a confection of modern publishing technology, I must say. The color printing of maps and charts throughout is impressive. The color is crisp, as is all the text, even in the smallest type. The paper is exceedingly thin, yet strong and opaque. There is no bleeding of ink. The binding is perhaps too tightly sewn, but it should loosen up in time and lead to less crinkling in the gutter. I’m not a fan of the super-limp calfskin cover, though. A more substantial lining is in order, I think, but that’s a personal preference. I found only two problems: the top corners of two leaves (one in Isaiah and the other in the concordance) were folded down when the text block was cut. It was a matter of a only few moments to trim them, though. Otherwise, it’s an examplary piece of binding.

Flipping through, I noticed an article on “The Bible in Christianity” (pp 2613-2622) including sections on Roman Catholicism (pp 2613-2615), Eastern Orthodoxy (pp 2615-2617), Liberal Protestantism (pp 2618-2619), Evangelical Protestantism (pp 2620-2622), and Evangelical Protestantism and Global Christianity (pp 2622). Knowing a little something of Eastern Orthodoxy, I decided to read through this section as my first taste of the ESV Study Bible.

Somewhat surprisingly, Eastern Orthodoxy receives a treatment equivalent in length to that of Evangelical Protestantism, which is the section describing the target audience of the ESV Study Bible. These are the lengthiest sections of the article, at two and one quarter pages each.

This Eastern Orthodoxy section of the article was written by Robert Letham of Wales Evangelical School of Theology. It is likely that he was chosen to author this piece as, among other books, Letham is the author of Through Western Eyes–Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective (Mentor/Christian Focus Publications, 2007), in which he introduces the Eastern Orthodox Church to a Reformed Christian audience. Letham is also a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Thus his perspective is one that can only be considered perfectly amenable to the ESV editors and their target audience, which is that of Reformed Evangelicals.

It is always tricky to write, particularly in summary, about another religious tradition than one’s own. A sympathetic eye is necessary in evaluating such writing, as there are many aspects of any tradition that escape the notice of outsiders, and nuances thereof which are not apprehended. This is not surprisingly the case in this instance. While the majority of the article is very well done, I think in several places, some too severe editing must have shortened some originally more robust passages that formerly made more coherent points. I’ll comment only on those statements in the article which need correction. It is to be understood that I find the rest of the article quite sympathetic and informed. We begin.

Continue reading “Eastern Orthodoxy in the ESV Study Bible”

A prayer of repentance

At the door of Your compassion do I knock, Lord; send aid to my scattered impulses which are intoxicated with the multitude of the passions and the power of darkness. You can see my sores hidden within me: stir up contrition—though not corresponding to the weight of my sins, for if I receive full awareness of the extent of my sins, Lord, my soul would be consumed by the bitter pain from them. Assist my feeble stirrings on the path to true repentance, and may I find alleviation from the vehemence of sins through the contrition that comes of Your gift, for without the power of Your grace I am quite unable to enter within myself, become aware of my stains, and so, at the sight of them be able to be still from great distraction.

Saint Isaac the Syrian. II/5.4 (translated by S. Brock)

Sursum Corda

‘Lift up your hearts’ ‘We lift them up.’ Ah me!
I cannot, Lord, lift up my heart to Thee :
Stoop, lift it up, that where Thou art
          I too may be.

‘Give Me thy heart.’ I would not say Thee nay,
But have no power to keep or give away
My heart : stoop, Lord, and take it
          to Thyself to-day.

Stoop, Lord, as once before, now once anew ;
Stoop, Lord, and hearken, hearken, Lord, and do,
And take my will, and take my heart,
          and take me too.

Christina Georgina Rossetti. Before 1886.