Archive for March, 2013


Doctrine Walks

Now, one day, when [Maccuil-maccu-Greccae] was sitting at this place, he saw St. Patrick radiating with the clear light of faith, and resplendent with a certain wonderful diadem of heavenly glory; he saw him, I say, walking, with unshaken confidence of doctrine, on a road agreeable thereto.

~ Muirchu’s Life of Patrick 23

In effort to continue my Lenten journey with St. Patrick, I came across this little passage. Besides having the most unpronouncable name of any human being in all of history, Maccuil-maccu-Greccae, Muirchu tells us, was “a very ungodly, savage tyrant,” who was “depraved in his thoughts, violent in his words, malicious in his deeds, bitter in spirit, wrathful in disposition, villainous in body, cruel in mind, heathenish in life, monstrous in conscience, [and] inclining to … a depth of ungodliness.” Yet Maccuil sees St. Patrick for who he truly is: “radiating with the clear light of faith, and resplendent with a certain wonderful diadem of heavenly glory.” This does not stop him from plotting to deceive and murder St. Patrick, but if I may cut to the chase, all ends well for both of them. My concern is not so much with Maccuil here, however, but with St. Patrick, who walked “with unshaken confidence of doctrine, on a road agreeable thereto.” Continue reading

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Virginity Sells

Let no one think however that herein we depreciate marriage as an institution. We are well aware that it is not a stranger to God’s blessing. But since the common instincts of mankind can plead sufficiently on its behalf, instincts which prompt by a spontaneous bias to take the high road of marriage for the procreation of children, whereas Virginity in a way thwarts this natural impulse, it is a superfluous task to compose formally an Exhortation to marriage.

~ St. Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity 8

As it turns out, my most recent post, “Virginity: Not Just For the Single,” has by far already been my most viewed. I wrote it after a friend cynically recommended that I write about sex if I want my blog to get more views. So I wrote about virginity instead. As it turns out, it appears that virginity sells. Continue reading

The following severe saying is reported of St. Basil, the Bishop of Caesarea: “I know not woman and yet I am not a virgin.” By this he means that bodily purity consists not so much in foreswearing women but in integrity of heart. For it maintains a perpetual incorrupt holiness of heart whether from the fear of God or from love of purity.

St. John Cassian, Institutes 6.19

A little while back, I mentioned the three monastic virtues of poverty, virginity, and obedience. In that post, I wrote specifically about poverty. While I have written about virginity or chastity before, it is my conviction that such an important and unpopular subject really can’t be talked about enough today, and I was encouraged to revisit it through a recent conversation with a friend. While one could decry the evils of a secular culture that treats sex like candy, to do so would miss, to me, a much more severe problem: a Christian culture that treats sex like candy. Continue reading

Icons of Hope

So we all believe, we all are so minded, we all give our consent and have signed.  This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the Orthodox, this is the faith which hath made firm the whole world.  Believing in one God, to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honourable images!

Decree of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

This might seem like an odd spiritual text to reflect on. After all, it is not the wisdom of a hermit, but the decree of a Church council. Nevertheless, it has something at its heart that is central to ancient Christian piety. Today, in the Orthodox Church, we celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy, commemorating the end of the iconoclastic controversy that spanned over a century and claimed countless martyrs for the faith. The victory of the Orthodox making and veneration of holy icons is, to me, a day of great hope: many people lived and died and fought for this faith, never to see the victory in their own lifetime. But today, Orthodox churches are covered in beautiful icons; all their effort was not in vain. In addition to this feast day, tomorrow is the Feast of the Annunciation and Tuesday is the Jewish Pesach (Passover). The theme of hope runs through these celebrations as well, and it is this that I would like to explore here as a matter of everyday asceticism. Continue reading

Journeying With St. Patrick

Then, having received the benedictions, and all things having been accomplished according to custom (moreover with a special appropriateness to Patrick, this verse of the Psalmist was sung, “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek “), the venerable traveller [St. Patrick] got on board, in the name of the Blessed Trinity, a ship prepared for him, and arrived in Britain; and dispensing with everything that could delay his journey [on foot], except what the requirements of ordinary life demand (for no one seeks the Lord by sloth), with all speed and with a favouring wind, he crossed our sea.

Muirchu’s Life of Patrick 9

St. Patrick’s biographer, Muirchu, highlights two interesting things in this little excerpt. First, St. Patrick does not simply get on board a ship; he boards the ship “in the name of the Blessed Trinity.” Second, Patrick rids himself of all that is unnecessary for his journey “for no one seeks the Lord by sloth.” Continue reading

A Flower in the Desert

For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

~ St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians 5.4

I don’t usually do this, but I had a bit of poetic inspiration and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to share it here. What follows was actually the end of a longer poem, but the only part worth keeping and sufficient on its own:

In desert nights the soul’s sun shines

and warms and brightens but does not blind.

Deep within such spiritual depths

blooms a beauty that knows not death.

And when my eyes close for their rest,

I’ll sleep without dream, desire, distress.

Though death for a time my body will take,

I’ll continue alive, active, awake.