I just read this, and it’s too good not to share. It is from The Light Shineth in the Darkness the Russian Orthodox Philosopher S. L. Frank:
A number of monastic orders have directly set as their practical task the religious and moral action on the world. On the other hand, it is also sufficiently well known, alas, how often monks have brought in their souls the powers of the world even into the monastery and how often they have been imprisoned by these powers in the monastery. And contrarily, Christians who live in the world and are open to all the temptations of the world are compelled—insofar as they are at all Christians—to observe in the depths of their soul the life-in-God detached from the world, i.e., to perform invisibly the function of monks. And if the Christian faith presupposes a universal priesthood, then in this sense it also presupposes a kind of invisible universal monkhood, realized in the depths of souls. Every Christian must in a certain sense be a “monk” in the eternally pagan world.
Just as inconsistent is the widespread identification of the duality under consideration with the distinction between the “religious” life of man and his “worldly” or secular life; or, in the collective plane, the distinction between the church (understood as a union or organization of believers) and the worldly powers of the state politics, secular culture, and so on. From this point of view, a Christian is a Christian only insofar as he prays, fasts, attends church, and so on. Beyond these limits, a man is not a “Christian” but the performer of some secular function, a soldier, bureaucrat, merchant, or scholar; and the Christian church is but one of the entities and powers of the world, like the family, the state, professional associations, trade, industry, science, art, etc.
In reality, however, the “religious” life of a Christian is not some particular sphere of his life and activity, but his very being. (143-144)
An old man said: “… If anyone speaks to you on a matter of controversy, do not argue with him. If he speaks well, say ‘Yes.’ If he speaks ill, say ‘l am ignorant in the matter.’ But argue not with what he has said, and then your mind will be at peace.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers
Obviously “Everyday Asceticism” does not refer to frequency of publication. But as this saying reminds us, sometimes—perhaps most of the time—it is better not to speak at all. Continue reading
Two brothers went to a town to sell what they had made. In the town they separated, and one of them fell into fornication. Afterwards the other brother said: “Let us go back to our cell, brother.” But he replied: “I am not coming.” And the other asked him: “Why, brother?” And he replied: “Because when you left me, I met temptation, and was guilty of fornication.” The other, wanting to help him, said: “It happened also to me: after I left you, I also fell into fornication. Let us go together, and do penance with all our might, and God will pardon us sinners.” When they returned to their cell, they told the elders what had happened to them, and were instructed what penance they should do. But the one did penance not for himself, but for the other, as though he himself had sinned. God, seeing his earnestness and his charity, disclosed to one of the elders, a few days later, that he had forgiven the fornicator because of the charity of the brother who had not sinned. Truly, this was to lay down his soul for his brother.
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 5.27
Just a short reflection—a few notes, really—for this Forgiveness Sunday. Vespers tonight actually marks the start of Great Lent for Orthodox Christians like myself, but I am unable to go: my little son Brendan seems to have the flu. So I’m home with him (who is sleeping next to me on the couch) while Kelly goes to Church. Continue reading
[W]orldly literature has never understood the spirit of Christian asceticism, and … this literature has called Christian asceticism superficial and unjustifiable. When worldly writers write about spiritual exercises, their words are, in the overwhelming majority of cases, pitifully meager. But this is partly because of the lack of skill of their ecclesiastical opponents and partly because it is impossible to speak about ascetic experience outside of the experience itself.
~ Pavel Florensky, “Letter 9: Creation,” The Pillar and Ground of the Truth
In the midst of researching for a conference paper to be presented this summer, I came across some wonderful reflections on asceticism by Pavel Florensky, the Russian Orthodox priest, philosopher, mathematician, et al., who was martyred for his faith by the Soviets in 1937. The following are some of his reflections on asceticism from his work, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth: Continue reading