NON-SCHOLARLY REFLECTIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF ORTHODOXY IN AMERICA 2

A Non-Scholarly Survey of the Sts. Ignatius and Clement for Hints on Evangelization

Whenever we are faced with a puzzling question, we can do no better than to consult the Fathers.  The Apostolic Fathers are generally the best place to start, since they are among the Fathers the most accessible, needing little background in church history, intellectual history or theological technical terms.

What can the Apostolic Fathers tell us about evangelization?

The Epistles of St. Ignatius and I Clement seem to offer nothing directly relevant to the question.  The fact that these authors painted across so broad a canvass without even mentioning evangelization may be a clue, though drawn a silentio.

II Clement, however, does offer some tantalizing hints.  (Since we do not know the name of the author, I refer to the document’s author as II Clement, which leaves the question of authorship open.)  Scholars agree on the date of II Clement (second century), but not on anything else about it.  His entire purpose in writing this epistle is, after providing a very concise and thoughtful exposition of the faith (cc. 1-2), to discuss in detail how to live our lives in view of all the dangers posed to our salvation by the world and by our own weaknesses.

It is odd to read II Clement.  After the fervent authority of St. Ignatius, who is writing frantically as he races towards martyrdom, and the self-assured tone of I Clement, II Clement is jarringly personal.  Although he discusses themes common to the Didache and other documents of the early church, he writes like St. James and St. Paul—with conviction.  II Clement urges us to reject the world, to live here as mere sojourners.  He makes repeated appeals to repentance, accounting himself as a sinner needing repentance (18.2).  His concern for salvation is not narcissistic—it is bound up intimately with that of our fellow Christians (9.6, 17.2, 17.3) and our fellow men (13.1, 15.1, 19.3).

II Clement seems to offer two hints on evangelization almost tangentially.

The first hint comes when II Clement warns his readers against blaspheming the Lord’s name among the Gentiles.  “For the Gentiles,” he says, “when they hear from our mouths the oracles of God, marvel at them for their beauty and greatness; then, when they discover that our works are not worthy of the words which we speak, forthwith they betake themselves to blasphemy, saying that it is an idle story and a delusion” (13.3).1  From these lines we infer that unbelievers somehow hear “the oracles of God.”2  However, II Clement does not state what would have been common knowledge for his audience—how the Gentiles heard these oracles.

The second hint comes when II Clement says that “we have received commands, that we should make it our business to tear men away from idols and to instruct them” (17.1).  The purpose and result are pretty plain, but again he does not say how this is supposed to happen.

That saving men from idolatry matters to II Clement is apparent when he appears to describe his previous life as a pagan:  “we . . . were maimed in our understanding, and worshipped stocks and stones and gold and silver and bronze, the works of men; and our whole life was nothing else but death. While then we were thus wrapped in darkness and oppressed with this thick mist in our vision, we recovered our sight, putting off by His will the cloud wherein we were wrapped” (1.6).  The poignance of these lines does not make the hint any clearer.

It is possible that II Clement does not envision the conversion of pagans as a matter of inviting people to church or haranguing them on the street, especially in a society hostile to Christians.  When he discusses how we confess Christ before men (Mt 10.32 or Lk 12.8), he says that we should “confess Him in our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery nor speaking evil one against another nor envying, but being temperate, merciful, kindly” (4.3).  In a nutshell, II Clement sees our confession of Christ as a matter of keeping the commandments (cf. 3.4).  

So may we conclude that we tear men away from their idols merely by our example?  How does that work?

A remarkable example of how this could work is found in Christine Benagh’s book, An Englishman in the Court of the Tsar:  The Spiritual Journey of Charles Sydney Gibbes.3

On the surface, this book chronicles the adventures of a young Englishman who became the English tutor to the imperial children not long before the Revolution.  Gibbes stayed with the family as long as he could, until he was forcibly separated from them by their Bolshevik butchers, after which he worked his way across Asia to Harbin as Russia descended into the Communist furnace.

At a deeper level, Benagh describes Gibbes’ lifelong quest to find a faith that would satisfy his desire for “the transcending reality he longed to know and experience.”4 It was not until he was 58—after dropping out of seminary twice, after spending years studying Oriental religions, and after living in a Shinto shrine for one year—that Gibbes realized that nothing in all his experience was as exalted and significant as the witness of humble faith, devotion and courage provided by the Imperial Family he had loved and served.  Quite suddenly, he saw the truth manifested in their lives:  their reliance on a foundation of strength, that kept them radiant even as they were buffeted, humiliated, maligned and their bodies destroyed by the powerful enemies arrayed against them—enemies they forgave . . . .  He had been in the presence of a great mystery that he was only now able to recognize.5

This is just what II Clement would have expected:  that Gibbes would be rescued from the trammels of rationalism and atheism not by long arguments, not by unflinching logic, not by heart-rending sermons, not even by short tracts on the spiritual laws thrust into his hands by total strangers on the street, but by brutal example.

If our reading of II Clement is right, then everything depends heavily on confessing Christ “in our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery nor speaking evil one against another nor envying, but being temperate, merciful, kindly” (4.3).  It is this confession that our families, friends and enemies need so badly—not argument, not proselytization, not cyber-wars.6

Now we can stand back and see what the problem with evangelization really is.  The minute we accept the challenge of bringing people in, we take our eyes off the only thing that matters to the salvation of everyone around us:  the confession of Christ by keeping his commandments “with our whole heart and with our whole mind” (3.4).

ENDNOTES

  1. Throughout this post we use J. B. Lightfoot’s translation of II Clement. See J. B. Lightfoot (ed.), The Apostolic Fathers:  Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp, 2nd ed. (Macmillan, 1889, 1890; rep. Hendrickson, 1989).
  2. Ta logia can mean “sayings” as well. See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. and ed. Frederick W. Danker, 3rd ed.  (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), q.v. logion.  Sayings can be careful or loose references to Scripture but can also refer to non-Biblical sources, such as non-canonical sayings of Christ (e.g., 12.2).
  3. Christine Benagh, An Englishman in the Court of the Tsar: The Spiritual Journey of Charles Sydney Gibbes (Chesterton, IN:  Ancient Faith Publishing, 2000).
  4. Benagh, p. 250.
  5. Ibid., pp. 251-252.
  6. What about apostles and bishops who have openly evangelized entire nations? But II Clement was not writing to them; he was writing to us.

 

 

A PROCEDURAL APPROACH TO LATIN … 2

CHAPTER 2:  PREDICT TO WHICH DECLENSION THE NOUN BELONGS

As in most languages, Latin nouns are assigned to noun-classes based on crucial similarities.  These noun-classes are called DECLENSIONS.  Here is a table we can use to tell which declension nouns belong to.

DECLENSIONS     CASES
1st                                a, ae, am, ā, ārum, īs, ās
2nd                               us, ī, ō, um, ōrum, īs, ōs
3rd                               is, ī, em, e, ēs, a, um, ium, ibus, īs
4th                               us, ūs, uī, um, uum, ū, ibus
5th                                ēs, eī, em, ē, ērum, ēbus

Example 1.  Virōs apparently belongs to the 2nd declension, because the ending ōs is found only in the 2nd declension rows.

Example 2.  Oppida apparently belongs to the 1st, 2nd or 3rd declension, because the ending a is found in those rows.

Assignment:  Assign apparent membership of each noun using the table above.

  1. dominus
  2. fīliī
  3. deō
  4. terram
  5. rēgibus
  6. diem
  7. deōrum
  8. deum
  9. manū
  10.   domuum
  11.   nominis
  12.   populum
  13.   verba
  14.   virīs
  15.   hominēs
  16.   faciem
  17.   cōnspectūs
  18.   tempore
  19.   frātribus
  20.   principem
  21.   animās
  22.   corde
  23.   via
  24.   gentēs
  25.   vocem
  26.   civitatem
  27.   nomine
  28.   capitis
  29.   iudicium

 

A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO RELIGIOUS DOUBTS 6

SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE:  Part 3

Now that we have got it straight—that spiritual knowledge is not what we know but what we do—we can define it more exactly.

St. Diadochus puts it in a nutshell when he says that spiritual knowledge consists “wholly of love.”1

If this is so, the advice of St. Thalassius the Libyan is logical enough: “love God, and you will attain spiritual knowledge.”2  But how do we love God?

In answer to this question St. Diodochus says that if someone has become angry with us for no reason, “then spiritual knowledge bids us to visualize this person with an overflowing of compassion in our soul and so fulfil the law of love in the depths of our heart.  For it is said that if we wish to have knowledge of God we must bring our mind to look without anger even on persons who are angry with us for no reason.”3  So the person who is angry at us provides us with the occasion for the knowledge of God.

St. Maximus advances in essence the same opinion as that of St. Thalassius at a more abstract level when he says that spiritual knowledge is hidden in our hearts and can only be revealed “by means of the commandments.”4 Why is this?

St. Mark the Monk answers that “the Lord is hidden in His own commandments, and He is to be found there in the measure that He is sought.”5

This view evidently has nothing in common with the common opinions that we are earning God’s favor by keeping the commandments, or that we buy our way into Heaven by keeping the commandments, or that we have a duty to keep the commandments.6  All such opinions divorce Christ from his own commandments, and we want nothing without Christ.  St. Ignatius offered the Ephesians the finest praise in the world when he said to them, “You do all things in Christ.”7

Let’s summarize all that we have learned about spiritual knowledge.  “The practice of virtues constitutes the truest form of spiritual knowledge.”8  This spiritual knowledge is itself love, which we already have in our hearts, waiting to be revealed by the commandments of Christ.

How do we connect the commandments of Christ with the virtues?  St. Theodore of Sanaxar says that “virtue is the fulfilling of the commandments.”9  St. Theodore also rebuts the legalistic view of the commandments when he says that as we fulfil them, “we should have constant remembrance of God and prayer so as to receive the Lord’s help.”10

St. Maximus also says something very practical and simple:  that the New Testament “endows the man practicing the virtues with the principles of true knowledge,” since it “fires the mind with love and unites it to God.”11  Note the condition that we practice the virtues in order to benefit from reading the New Testament—head-knowledge just has no value among the Fathers.  And, until we find someone who will be angry at us and so allow us to attain to knowledge of God, we can read the New Testament to acquire love for God.

This completes our detour on the cure of spiritual ignorance.  We will next resume discussing those states of mind which fall short of certitude.

ENDNOTES

  1. The Philokalia, tr. G.E H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware, vols. 1-4 (London: Faber & Faber, 1979-1995; reprint, New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983), 1:290.
  2. Palmer, 2:326; cf. 328.
  3. Palmer, 1:290.
  4. Palmer, 2:109.
  5. Palmer, 1:123.
  6. Cf. St. Mark’s strictures on keeping the commandments (Palmer, 1:126).
  7. Eph. VIII.1.
  8. Palmer, 1:302.
  9. Little Russian Philokalia, (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2000), vol. 5, Saint Theodore of Sanaxar, 79.
  10.  Ibid., 80 f.
  11.  Ibid., 2:256.

 

 

 

A PROCEDURAL APPROACH TO LATIN

CHAPTER 1:  SEPARATE CASE FROM BASE

Every noun can be divided into a base and a case.

The base is a string of letters which indicates the DICTIONARY CONTENT (what is denoted by the noun).  Any person (man, woman, child, policeman, doctor, lawyer, etc.), place (lake, mountain, sky, house, etc.) or thing (telephone, computer, table, window, etc.) can be the dictionary content of the base.

The case is the part that indicates additional information about the noun, such as number.

Number is a quality denoting that there is only one instance of the noun (the SINGULAR number) or many (the PLURAL number).

The letter attached to the noun to indicate the plural number is called the plural marker.

Ex1.  The plural marker of cats is -s.

Ex2.  The plural marker of children is -ren.

Ex3.  The plural marker of oxen is -en.

By contrast, in English the singular is usually UNMARKED.  A word is unmarked if it is unchanged from its DICTIONARY FORM.

Ex1.  There is no singular marker for cat, so it is unmarked.

Ex2.  The plural of deer is the same as the singular, so it is unmarked.

Ex3.  The title of the Dr. Seuss book One Fish, Two Fish shows that the plural of fish is unmarked.

Obs.  The dictionary form of geese is goose, that of men is man, that of students is student, that of bird’s is bird etc.

In Latin the situation is very different, because there are many endings which have many other kinds of additional information.

Here are most of the cases we will meet in Latin.

CASES
a, ae, am, ā, ārum, īs, ās
us, ī, ō, um, ōrum, īs, ōs
um, ī, ō, a, ōrum, īs, ōs
er, ī, ō, um, ōrum, īs, ōs
is, ī, em, e, ēs, um, ibus
is, ī, em, ī, ēs, ium, ibus, īs
is, ī, e, a, um, ibus
us, ūs, uī, um, uum, ū, ibus
ēs, eī, em, ē, ērum, ēbus

In English it is easy to divide a noun into base and case.

Ex1.  Dogs = dog + s

Ex2.  Children = child + ren

Ex3.  Tim’s = Tim + ’s

Ex4.  boys’ = boy + s’

In Latin we use the CASES table.

Ex1.  Divide mēnsam.
We divide mēnsam into two parts:  the base (mēns-) and the case (-am).  We know that -am is the case because when we refer to the table from we find
-am, not -sam, -nsam, etc.

Ex2.  Divide puerōrum.
In this chapter we cannot tell that the correct division is puer + ōrum.  The rule of selecting the longer case will tell us not to divide as puerōr + um.

Exercise

Divide each of the following words into base and case.

  1. dominus
  2. fīliī
  3. deō
  4. terram
  5. rēgibus
  6. diem
  7. deōrum
  8. deum
  9. manū
  10.  domuī
  11.  nominis
  12.  populum
  13.  verba
  14.  virīs
  15.  hominēs
  16.  faciem
  17.  cōnspectūs
  18.  tempore
  19.  fratribus
  20.  principem
  21.  animās
  22.  corde
  23.  viam
  24.  gentium
  25.  vōcem

Translations from the Greek

[This is the first of many canons which I will be posting.  St. Arsenius the Cappadocian is famous mostly because he baptized St. Paisius the Athonite, but his claims to our attention go deeper than that.  I have organized the canon in the Greek fashion, in that the irmos is given as a fragment (to inform the chanter how to chant the troparia following).  NB.  “Saint of God, pray for us” precedes the first two troparia.  “Glory to the Father etc.” precedes the third troparion and “Now and ever etc.” precedes the fourth.  My source for this canon will be added soon.]

SUPPLICATORY CANON TO ST. ARSENIUS THE CAPPADOCIAN

Ode 1.  Having crossed the sea.

Since you have acquired true joy, inspired Father Arsenius, deliver those who run to your protection from every despondency and madness of the enemy.

You arose like a new star, illuminating us with your holy life; wherefore drive away the gloom of our passions by your intercessions, O saint.

You wholly abstained from the passing cares; therefore you deliver the mind, soul and heart of those who draw near to you, Father Arsenius, from pains.

Heal, O Maiden, as you are sympathetic towards me, my badly wounded heart, and request the forgiveness of my offences by your intercessions with your merciful Son.

 

Ode 3.  Of the apse of Heaven.

As of old you delivered the greatest number of people from various kinds of diseases, O saint, by your intercession with the Lord, so deliver us from unclean passions and from every evil circumstances, Father Arsenius.

Having magnified in your life the Lord of all, you have acquired the greatest glory, Father Arsenius; wherefore deliver us from great dangers and from the attacks of the destroyer of all.

O servant of the Lord and champion of the faithful, holy Arsenius, guide us all to the calm and saving harbors, to life without pain and everlasting.

In order to save the world, the cause of all things took flesh from your pure blood, O Maiden; wherefore heal my sickly flesh and illumine my mind with the light of grace.

Preserve, divine Arsenius, by your prayers from every sudden attack and evil circumstances those who run to your fervent protection.

 

Tone 2.  With fervent intercession.

Earnestly entreat Christ, Arsenius, to give us the forgiveness of our offences and healing of passions and health of soul and body and progress in living a reverent life, so that we may attain to divine glory.

 

Ode 4.  I have heard, O Lord.

Made splendid with the gifts of the divine Spirit, holy Father, freely take pity on us and deliver us from oppressive distress.

Beg for divine strength, Arsenius, to be given to my utterly exhausted soul, so that I may escape every deception and treachery of the destroyer.

As you saved demoniacs from the power of the adversary, so also deliver, Arsenius, us from his unexpected attacks.

You were a divine mountain, densely-shaded with your opulent graces, O Mother of God, from which the Savior descended to the world and saved mankind.

 

Ode 5.  Illumine us.

Raise our heart, holy father, to the perfect love of Christ, guiding us in peace, Arsenius.

By the mystical rains of your intercessions with the Lord completely extinguish the flame of the passions which causes us to waste away, Father Arsenius.

Crush, wise saint, the subtle contrivances of the enemy, preserving us unharmed by his scheming, we always beg you.

Direct us to the better life, Virgin; ward off the attacks of the enemy and grant peace to our souls.

 

Ode 6.  My supplication.

You showed forth from God, Arsenius, the saving grace of miracles; wherefore heal all the illnesses of our souls and bodies at every time; preserve me from them untouched, Father, for I have fled for refuge to your protection.

Change the bitter storm of my passions by the stillness of your warm intercession into rest, Father, and guide me safely to the harbor of the divine will, for you have boldness with the Lord.

Numbered in the choir of the saints, as one who has completed his life in a holy fashion, grant sanctification, joy and peace to the monastery of the Theologian, Father, which has acquired your divine relics as a divine treasure.

Since you bore the creator and savior of all from your immaculate womb, save me, Maiden, from the madness of the enemy, and fortify me with the fear of my creator, so that I may walk steadfastly the road of his holy will.

Preserve by your intercessions, divine Arsenius, from every attack and evil circumstance those who run to your fervent protection.

Ode 7.  The youths from Judea.

With ardent purpose, barren women came once to your divine relics and became mothers rejoicing in their children with your help, thrice-blessed Arsenius.

By your cleansing intercession remove the wounds of my soul and give me genuine means of repentance, as my ardent defender, holy Arsenius, and fellow-citizen of the angels.

The monastery of the Theologian has acquired a divine prize, Father Arsenius—your divine relics, which belong to the faithful, conveying to them divine grace and invisibly filling them with heavenly joy.

Having spread out on us the incorruptible grace of your protection, always ward off from us every wile of the murderous enemy and direct us to the path of salvation.

 

Ode 8.  The King.

With the holy staff of your divine visitation, guide us as sheep, Father, to the deathless and mystical pastures.

Behold from above those who stand reverently by your relics and give to them, Father, the abundant manifestation of your help.

Protect unceasingly with your fatherly assistance those who lie in terrible slavery, saving them alive from harm and dangers.

Heal, Maiden, my ailing soul and furnish me with tears of repentance, so that I may glorify you, O Full of Grace.

 

Ode 9.  Fittingly the Mother of God.

Deliver the multitude of the Orthodox Christians who magnify you from all the madness of our enemies, visible and invisible, divine Arsenius.

Being in the chorus with the saints, beseech with them on behalf of us, divine Arsenius, who celebrate your divine victories.

Now that you praise God in Trinity with the angels in the heights, holy Father, ever beseech him to save us who praise you.

We hymn you, Virgin, as the Mother of God, and we cry out the Rejoice with never silent voices to you, for by your intercession Maiden we are ever saved.