I have been accepted for admission to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, where I intend, if I am deemed worthy, to enter the seminary program.
Pursue the small consolation that is acquired in time from toil, that you may be accounted worthy of that great consolation which dispels the troubles of this life of sorrows for those who find it. Do not despise small things, lest you be deprived of great ones. Has no one ever seen an infant who, when he puts flesh in his mouth, sucks milk? By means of small things the door is opened to great ones. You dishonour God, O my brother, in that you desire Him to govern you without a definite order. For no man has been entrusted with great things without first having been tried in small ones.
From The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily 25.
In context, Saint Isaac is discussing noetic prayer amongst monastics. There were those (like the heretical Messalians) who claimed to be able to enter a state of theoria at will, and that their prayer became such regularly, with no effort. Over the course of this and the previous two homilies, however, Saint Isaac destroys the foundations of such a supposition. Theoria is not something that is generated at will, a kind of “altered state of consciousness”, but is an uncreated grace of God, something on His terms, not ours.
But this brought to my mind how often people these days deceive themselves and one another that a life of prayer is an extremeley easy thing. How easy it is to read a few chapters of the Philokalia, do a couple laps around the prayer rope, and then be impatiently waiting for theoria! What is even worse are those who are completely outside the tradition, smorgasbording their way through ancient Christian texts and practices (Eastern ones in particular are now so en mode!) and who think that this or that ancient text or practice, ripped out of its context, is justificatioin for a personally concocted supremely smug “spirituality” that is so terrifically annoying, yet so abundantly common these days.
The Christian way is threefold: purification, illumination, and glorification. One leads to the other. Without purification, without turning one’s body and mind away from those things which separate us from God, one will not experience the illumination of the soul that comes from the Holy Spirit. And without illumination of the soul, one is not experiencing theosis, the eternal approach toward the perfection of God, which is our transformation and glorification. Purification > Illumination > Glorification. We cannot skip a step. Nor may we adjust any of these steps for a perceived need to appease the world’s perceptions and expectations. The truly Christian life is something that is anti-world. And without that first step, to resolutely turn our minds away from an earthly goal and toward a heavenly one, we are not on that path at all.
Saint Isaac is quite thought-provoking!
In two earlier posts (part one, and part two) I provided a list of the volumes of the Popular Patristics Series published by Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, indicating the contents and the source of the texts translated for each volume. Several more volumes have since appeared, and are described here.
39. Harp of Glory: Enzira Sebhat—An Alphabetical Hymn of Praise for the Ever-Blessed Virgin Mary from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Introduction and Translation: Fr John McGuckin
Text: Latin version of M. Van Oudenrijn OP. Corpus Scriptorum Christianiorum Orientalium, volume 40. Louvain, 1961.
40. Divine Eros: Hymns of Saint Symeon the New Theologian
Introduction and Translation: Daniel K. Griggs
Works: All fifty-eight hymns
Text: Sources Chrétiennes, volumes 156, 174, and 196
41. On the Two Ways—Life or Death, Light or Darkness: Foundational Texts in the Tradition
Introduction and Translation: Alistair Stewart(-Sykes); Translation of Life of Shenoute: Posy Clayton
Works [and Texts]: Qumran Community Rule 3.13-4.26 [Florentino Garcia Martinez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition. Brill, 1997]; Didache [SC 248]; Doctrina Apostolorum [SC 248]; Epistle of Barnabas [SC 172]; Epitome of the Apostolic Commands [Alistair Stewart-Sykes, The Apostolic Church Order. Sydney: St Paul’s, 2006]; Apostolic Church Order [Alistair Stewart-Sykes, The Apostolic Church Order. Sydney: St Paul’s, 2006]; Life of Shenoute [Ed. E. Amélineau, Monuments pour servir à l’histoire de l’Égypte chrétienne aux IVe at Ve siècles. Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1888]; Syntagma doctrinae [Ed. P. Battifol, in Syntagma doctrinae, Studia Patristica 2. Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1890]; Fides patrum [Ed. P. Battifol, Didascalia CCCXVIII patrum. Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1887]; Rule of Saint Benedict chapter 4 [ed. Montecassino, 1959]; Pseudo-Boniface, homily 15 [H. van de Sandt and D. Flusser, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity. Assen: Van Gorcum 2002]; The Second Catechesis of the Manner of Catechizing Converts: Concerning the ten commandments of the law [H. van de Sandt and D. Flusser, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity. Assen: Van Gorcum 2002]
42. St Basil the Great: On the Holy Spirit
Introduction and Translation: Stephen Hildebrand
Text: Bernard Sesboüé. Sur le Saint-Esprit (SC 17 bis)