Where, then, can anyone go or where can he flee to escape from him who embraces everything?
~ 1 Clement 28.4
Today we Orthodox Christians commemorate St. Clement of Rome, who knew the Apostles, wrote a letter (1 Clement) on behalf of the Church in Rome to the Church in Corinth, and was martyred for his faith by being bound to an anchor and cast into the sea. The anchor, because ancient anchors often had a sort of cross shape at the top, was an ancient Christian symbol, thus those who persecuted him and other Christians out of xenophobia, envy, and rivalry unwittingly honored him in his death. His epistle to the Corinthians is a beautiful exhortation to peace and unity in the face of envy and rivalry. In the passage above, he reminds his readers of something no Christian would deny, but many (myself included) forget in practice: God “embraces everything.” Continue reading
When they came to the middle of the journey, Mary said to him, “Joseph, take me off the donkey, the child [is] pushing from within me to let him come out.”
So he took her off the donkey and said to her, “Where will I take you and shelter you in your awkwardness? This area is a desert.”
And he found a cave and led her there and stationed his sons to watch her, while he went to a find a Hebrew midwife in the land of Bethlehem.
~ Protevangelium of James, 17.3(10)-18.1(1)
Last Friday, Orthodox Christians like myself began the liturgical season of Advent (most Christians have a few more weeks to go). For the Orthodox, this season is comparable to Great Lent. We fast through the whole period, but it is a lighter fast until the last two weeks. Basically we eat fish instead of being totally vegan, but it is a wonderful season of spiritual reflection nonetheless. Continue reading
Saint Syncletice also said: “If you are troubled by illness, do not be melancholy, even if you are so ill that you cannot stand to pray or use your voice to say psalms. We need these tribulations to destroy the desires of our body; in this they serve the same purpose as fasting and austerity. If your senses are dulled by illness, you do not need to fast. In the same way that a powerful medicine cures an illness, so illness itself is a medicine to cure passion.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 7.17
This is not an easy saying, but it is a very important one. So much so that I have reflected on it once before. The desert fathers (and mothers, as in this case) offer a different perspective on suffering than what the world teaches. St. Syncletice here teases out the implications of the saying of Christ: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24). Sickness and suffering are little tastes of death. We can have a new, resurrected life but not without dying first. If we want new creation, we must first submit to the destruction of the old. Continue reading
Just as human affection, when it abounds, overpowers those who love and causes them to be beside themselves, so God’s love for men emptied God.
~ St. Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, 6.3
St. Nicholas Cabasilas lived in the middle ages, which is later than I usually go for sayings to reflect on. However, this one struck me as too profound not to share. I have written before on how our love for Christ can take on a romantic quality—that overpowering eros that compels us to leave everything to follow Jesus. But according to St. Nicholas, that is only half the story, and the beauty of the other half outshines the former as the light of the sun outshines the moon and the stars: God loved us in this way first. Continue reading