Monthly Archives: March 2014

Clement, Philosophy and Paganism

ClementIn the early stages of the development of Christian development it was ridiculed and refuted as too mysterious and not liable to be understood by the human mind. The Church father Clement and his followers had the challenge of presenting Christianity as a form of philosophy without ever compromising the essence of the Christian faith. These early defenders of the faith worked against a twofold danger. While they genuinely tried to resolve the pagan antagonisms they experienced because they were Christians, it was their own fellow believers who were also hostile for any sort of theological compromise. (sounds familiar )

One of these early church peers observed, it seemed that a chance of any peace between the Greeks and Christians was virtually impossible:

On the one hand, the completely negative attitude of many uneducated Christians towards Greek philosophy prevented Christianity from assuming a scientific and philosophical character, and thus limited greatly its chances of success; on the other hand, the pagan world did not refrain from attacking the new religion.

However, the Alexandrian fathers found a solution. It was contained in the mission of the Alexandrian school and its teachers to develop once and for all a coherent synthesis of Greek science and religion. The result was Christian philosophy, which, Clement realized, was the only hope of joining the pagan and Christian parties together under one rational and acceptable Christian religion. While those in the like of Tertullian renounced the remolding of Christian doctrine to fit philosophical ideals, the Alexandrian party became a pioneer in both its fresh theological endeavors and in its success to finally spread the Christian faith among the intellectual circles of imperial society. Clement of Alexandria, one of the most revered deans of the Catechetical School for his philosophical theology and intellectual acumen, was one of the foremost figures who succeeded in uniting the missions of religion and science.

Our 21st century challenge is to reignite the dynamic dialogue that existed at the time of Clement- a dialogue that brought all parties together to explore the great mysteries of life. Such a dialogue could transform the mission of the church and revitalize it as a bastion of thinking and enlightenment to the world. We must battle the same uneducated and fearful bias that existed in the time of Clement, for by doing so, we open up a great avenue of opportunity for the gospel.

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March 22 — Day 16

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

16 Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

“Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears— of everything that concerns you. Converse with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not likely to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.”

—–Alphonsus Ligouri

 


Prayer Starter — Lord give me reminders of my need for you.

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A Prayer from the Desert

Lord Jesus Christ, whose will all things obey: pardon what I have done and grant that I, a sinner, may sin no more. Lord, I believe that though I do not deserve it, you can cleanse me from all my sins. Lord, I know that man looks upon the face, but you see the heart. Send your spirit into my inmost being, to take possession of my soul and body. Without you I cannot be saved; with you to protect me, I long for your salvation. And now I ask you for your salvation And now I ask you for wisdom, deign of your great goodness to help and defend me. Guide my heart, almighty God, that I may remember your presence day and night.

Amen


Desert quote W H Auden

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The Mission of Confession: the World needs us to Confess

This is a very good article about the need of Christians to confess as a vital part of the walk of faith. Without confession there is no real faith.

the long way home

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And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!
Genesis 4.10

I was taking another look at the verses I wrote about earlier this week, and was struck by a few more thoughts I wanted to share. As I said then, the passage is structured liturgically. The story of Cain and Abel follows the flow of liturgy that God’s people have used for the duration of their existence. (It’s usually something like this: Call to Worship–>Call to Confession–>Passing the Peace–>Word–>Sacrament–>Benediction)

I pointed out that the blood-soaked soil “crying out” was the first instance of lament in the Bible, and it appears in the “Call to Confession” section of this odd liturgy. I said that this shows us how the world bears the weight of our own sin. Looking at it again, though, I see it means much more…

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March 20–Day 14

Exodus 20:1-6

1Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you outLent_2011_40days of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

—–C. S. Lewis

Prayer Starter — Lord we all seem to find gods to put ahead of You. Help me to serve YOU alone.

LENTEN PRAYER GUIDE

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Passion Knowledge

crucifixionI thought I had some sense of the passion of Christ, but still I desired more by the grace of God.

I thought that I wished to have been at that time with Mary Magdalen and the others who were Christ lovers, and therefore I desired a bodily sight wherein I could have more knowledge.

—-Julian of Norwich

Many times, but especially during the Lenten season, we set our minds on the passion of the Christ. What did He endure on the cross? Why did he do it? Did he really have to suffer so much? Julian, however, didn’t ask the same questions, instead she just wanted to be there. Somehow she desired to mystically experience the emotions of the moment. Julian intuitively knew that physical presence could bring knowledge that would thrust her closer to Her Savior. Our task is to seek that same familiarity so that we can function as emissaries of the promise of the passion. That promise is grace. As we feel with the Christ, we can offer the message of His grace with the same freedom.

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St. Joseph

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (13...

Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.

We know he was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55). He wasn’t rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).

Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew disagree some about the details of Joseph’s genealogy but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him as “son of David,” a royal title used also for Jesus.

We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. He knew that women accused to adultery could be stoned to death, so he decided to divorce her quietly and not expose her to shame or cruelty (Matthew 1:19-25).

We know Joseph was man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

As celebrate St. Joseph with feasting let also remember his commitment to our Savior.

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March 18–Day 12

Matthew 18:20-22

20For where two or tLenten Crosshree are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

 

A brother asked Abba Poemen: What does it mean to get angry at one’s brother without cause? And he replied: When your brother attacks you, whatever the insults are, if you get angry at him, you are getting angry without cause. Even if he were to pull out your right eye, and to cut off your right hand, if you get angry at him, you are getting angry without cause. Yet if he were to try to take you away from God, then get angry!

——- Abba Poemen

 


Prayer Starter — Lord help me to be a person of forgiveness.

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March 17 — Day 11

1 Corinthians 10:10-14

10And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 14Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.


A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart. A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate. But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemy’s heart.

——— Abba Dorotheos

Prayer Starter — Lord help me to gain victory of my passions.

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St. Patrick

St_Patrick1St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity’s most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.

It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)

After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice—which he believed to be God’s—spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.

To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation—an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)

Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick’s life became exaggerated over the centuries—spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.

HAPPY ST. PATICK’S DAY

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