Over the years of reflecting on the Gospel in the light of ancient Christian spiritual teachings, I’ve stumbled upon a few good aphorisms — pithy maxims — and observations derived from better, wiser aphorisms and observations from better, wiser men and women.

Nevertheless, the point of the blog is not monastic perfection but everyday achievement. On that score, I think my aphorisms are fairly helpful, and I figured one way I could remind myself of them — because I forget them all the time — would be to try to collect them all in one place.

Hence, this post.

So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorites from my posts in the past:

Our faults are not what make us human; they are the exceptions to our humanity.

Judas is something of an anti-Brutus; he would have been happier with a Jewish Julius Caesar.

The antinomy between life and death is solved through resurrection.

No masks are allowed for the one who sees God. It requires a truly, if painfully, purified heart.

All the best theological conceptions—the masks we put in front of his face—fall infinitely short of the reality of God as he truly is.

Metaphysics may simply be my natural method of rationalization.

Evil is irrational. And irrational things cannot really be explained. Evil is tragic, chaotic, unjust, dark, ugly, and empty. I would call it a mystery, but I take that word to be a good thing. Evil is the antithesis of mystery as well.

[On the logic of humility:] The way up is down.

True prayer, to St. Antony, is the art of eternal life. Not art in the sense of skill … but art in the sense of a second, beauty-creating nature, a Skill beyond skill, we might say: a Way beyond all ways.

If our spiritual senses are currently dull, we need only to choose virtue and endeavor after it through every moment of our ever-changing lives, and we will find the eyes of our souls opened to a world of wonder and beauty that we could scarce have ever imagined before.

[Three Lenten theses:] 1: Grief and fasting complement one another. 2: Fasting and prayer complement one another. 3: Prayer with grief and fasting promote joy.

True, spiritual joy is the delicate fruit of taking the world seriously, rather than making light of it. There is greater contrast between this joy and pleasure than there is between pleasure and sadness. They are as far apart as heaven and earth.

The Scriptures can use anthropomorphic language to speak of God, but it is uncharitable to assume that ancient people therefore meant such language to be taken in the crudest way possible.

[In Jesus,] we see a man like us who is utterly unlike us.

Evil has no existence of itself, it is a privation of being. It is when good things go bad.

God is not riding on a cloud. Heaven is where everything is good and right and true.

God is goodness, rightness, and truth. Heaven is where everything is good and right and true. Evil is when good things go bad. A trespass is when we do something bad. Temptation is when we want to do something bad.

Jesus said that unless a man becomes like a little child, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. There are many things he may have meant by that. Perhaps one of them is not to forget to ask the most basic questions about our life and our faith—or at least not ignoring those who do.

Vices are their own punishment. They cut us off from communion with God, from others, even from ourselves. They sever us from the source of true joy. They are schisms of the heart.

God does not forget anyone, but remembers them by embracing them with his love.

All division is a failure to love, or at least—if St. Augustine is correct—a failure to love rightly.

As my economist friends remind me, everything could always be worse. I could be worse.

For those of us in the world, perhaps the greatest gift to remind us of our deep imperfection is the gift of children, who are not impressed with any of our accomplishments, who wake up with gas in the middle of the night even though we need to work the next day, who, each in their own way, change us for the better, if only by revealing new, unseen imperfections in ourselves.

Monks are spiritual scientists, running all kinds of experiments and leaving a record that others can test and either confirm or challenge.

In the world, we are so busy that we don’t even have time to be tired. We still are, of course, but we don’t have time to do it well. Or we don’t think we do, at least.

We go through a lot to get a paycheck. So why not in our spiritual lives as well?

There is a rest that comes from unceasing labor to do the right thing, day after day, despite everything that wearies us in the world. There is a delight that leisure cannot know. There is eternal life hidden beneath this mortal coil.

Whether justly or not, thoughts and ideas can circle about, planting doubts as to my piety and tainting the purity of my mind and heart. But yet, I pray anyway, and he’s there. He’s always there.