Friday Theology

Not much from Aquinas today. He’s continuing his discussion of the Credal variations. There are more important things to worry about now. We are in a context of persecution. We need to concentrate on what is important. For balance, something orthodox.

Why did the three evangelists pass over in silence the reason for Christ’s miraculous walking upon the water, which as we see from John, lay in the Lord’s desire to escape from their hands being forcibly proclaimed king? They kept silence for the same reason that they did concerning the resurrection of Lazarus, the Savior’s subsequent sentencing to death, the people’s rage which was kindled against Him when He permitted pagans to mock, in His Person, the nation’s beloved dream of a national king, i. e., Pilate’s announcement: “Behold your King!” They had to keep silent about such things because a Jewish kingdom was still in existence; for an explanation of this aspect of the events of Christ’s life would have been tantamount to a denunciation of the popular uprising then in preparation, of the nation-wide revolutionary mood inspired and fueled by the Sanhedrin and the scribes. The sacred authors, disciples of Christ, quite wisely protected themselves against the hostile Jews’ suspicion that they would betray them, would denounce the great rebellion being prepared by the Jews against Roman domination and which broke out in force in A. D. 67. They acted in this way when recounting the earthly life of Christ, and later, when recording their own activities. When the Apostle Paul, for example, arrived in Rome, he considered it his duty, at his first encounter with his compatriots, to explain that he was appearing before Caesar’s tribunal, “not that (he) had ought to accuse [his] people of (Acts 28: 19), but in order to acquit himself.
Such circumspection was totally unnecessary by the time the fourth Gospel was written, i. e., after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish kingdom by Vespasian and Titus. It was not necessary for St. John to pass over in silence those aspects of the Gospel events, the description of which could have resulted in retribution on the part of the Jewish government, e.g. who it was exactly who cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, while not one of the first three evangelists decided to name Simon Peter as the one who had wielded the sword, but all three contented themselves with the expression: “one of those who were with Jesus,” not even calling him His apostle or disciple (only John calls by name the one who drew his sword and the one who was wounded by the sword). For this same reason the Synoptics keep silence concerning the resurrection of Lazarus, since he had been condemned to death by the Sanhedrin as an alleged criminal who, as is known from the most ancient accounts, was forced to flee to Cyprus, and moreover was exceedingly weighed down by the remembrance of his death and resurrection; for the Jews who were there in great numbers followed the Christians everywhere and incited the pagans against them, and sometimes even those who were the dregs of society, as we can also see from the Book of Acts

The Jews rejected Christ and all where were aligned with him, and as the revolution got closer the pressure on the Jerusalem Church, who were Jewish, was huge. When the Romans came to suppress the revolt they recalled the words of Christ and fled.

Which is one reason there is an ancient church in Israel, continuously, despite the oppression of the Muslim, Turk and Jew.

Turning to Calvin, this passage shows that the thinking of that theologian was influenced by scripture and the church fathers. He sees no good in man. Nor should we. The current fashion of encouraging self esteem is to encourage pride and that is a deadly poison. The Roman Catechists were correct to call it a deadly sin.

10 Here however, I must again repeat what I premised at the outset of this chapter, that he who is most deeply abased and alarmed, by the consciousness of his disgrace, nakedness, want, and misery, has made the greatest progress in the knowledge of himself. Man is in no danger of taking too much from himself, provided he learns that whatever he wants is to be recovered in God. But he cannot arrogate to himself one particle beyond his due, without losing himself in vain confidence, and, by transferring divine honour to himself, becoming guilty of the greatest impiety. And, assuredly, whenever our minds are seized with a longing to possess a somewhat of our own, which may reside in us rather than in God, we may rest assured that the thought is suggested by no other counsellor than he who enticed our first parents to aspire to be like gods, knowing good and evil. It is sweet, indeed, to have so much virtue of our own as to be able to rest in ourselves; but let the many solemn passages by which our pride is sternly humbled, deter us from indulging this vain confidence: "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm." (Jer. 17:5). "He delighteth not in the strength of the horse; he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in those that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy," (Ps. 147:10, 11). "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength," (Is. 40:29-31). The scope of all these passages is that we must not entertain any opinion whatever of our own strength, if we would enjoy the favour of God, who "resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble," (James 4:6). Then let us call to mind such promises as these, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground," (Is. 44:3); "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," (Is. 55:1). These passages declare, that none are admitted to enjoy the blessings of God save those who are pining under a sense of their own poverty. Nor ought such passages as the following to be omitted: "The sun shall no more be thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory," (Is. 60:19). The Lord certainly does not deprive his servants of the light of the sun or moon, but as he would alone appear glorious in them, he dissuades them from confidence even in those objects which they deem most excellent.

11 I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, "The foundation of our philosophy is humility;" and still more with those of Augustine, "As the orator, when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What the third? Delivery: so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility." By humility he means not when a man, with a consciousness of some virtue, refrains from pride, but when he truly feels that he has no refuge but in humility. This is clear from another passage, "Let no man," says he, "flatter himself: of himself he is a devil: his happiness he owes entirely to God. What have you of your own but sin? Take your sin which is your own; for righteousness is of God." Again, "Why presume so much on the capability of nature? It is wounded, maimed, vexed, lost. The thing wanted is genuine confession, not false defence." "When any one knows that he is nothing in himself, and has no help from himself, the weapons within himself are broken, and the war is ended." All the weapons of impiety must be bruised, and broken, and burnt in the fire; you must remain unarmed, having no help in yourself. The more infirm you are, the more the Lord will sustain you. So, in expounding the seventieth Psalm, he forbids us to remember our own righteousness, in order that we may recognise the righteousness of God, and shows that God bestows his grace upon us, that we may know that we are nothing; that we stand only by the mercy of God, seeing that in ourselves eve are altogether wicked. Let us not contend with God for our right, as if anything attributed to him were lost to our salvation. As our insignificance is his exaltation, so the confession of our insignificance has its remedy provided in his mercy. I do not ask, however, that man should voluntarily yield without being convinced, or that, if he has any powers, he should shut his eyes to them, that he may thus be subdued to true humility; but that getting quit of the disease of self-love and ambition, filautiva kai; filoneikiva, under the blinding of which he thinks of himself more highly than he ought to think, he may see himself as he really is, by looking into the faithful mirror of Scripture.

Be very careful of those who say that you can gain peace through the practice of spirituality. We need to turn to Christ, and to him alone. For without Christ, all we do will be lost in the wind. With Christ, what we do is of great value.

"Separated from God Who is the source of Life," writes Archimandrite Zacharias in his book Hidden Man of the Heart, "man can only withdraw into himself…. Gradually he is left desolate and dissolute."
Buddhism rejects the self, the soul, and the person. It folds its arms in silence against God. Suffering is never transfigured. There are crosses in Buddhism but there is never resurrection. One could say that Buddhism finds the empty tomb and declares this emptiness the natural state of things, even the goal. In Buddhism everything—heaven, hell, God, the self, the soul, the person—is an illusion waiting to be overcome, discarded, destroyed. This is the goal. Total obliteration. In this 9th-century axiom, the essence of Buddhism is summed: ‘If you see the Buddha, kill him.’
Buddhism does not profess to—nor can it—heal soul and body. Both soul and body are to be overcome and discarded. In the Orthodox Church, however, the soul and body are meant to be healed. Buddhism teaches that nothing has intrinsic value. The Church teaches that everything God makes has intrinsic value. This includes the human body. We are complex beings. The actions of our body, mind and soul are linked. And these linked actions are directly related to our relationship with God and the spiritual realm.
For Orthodox Christians, everything—even suffering—is a hidden door through which we meet Christ, whereby we embrace one another.

This world does not mind the Buddhist Monk, the Yogi, or the Hare Krishna walking the streets in solitude. They will converge with the spirit of this age.

But Christ came to rescue us from that doom, and for that reason the world hated Christ and the early Church. I am seeing the same hatred re-emerge. Stand fast in Christ.

For the sake not merely of your own soul, but because that witness will bring others back to the cross.