Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wisdom from...

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA (ca. 378-444): We must not pass judgment

The blessed disciples were to be the spiritual guides and teachers of the whole world. It had therefore to be clearly seen by all that they held fast to the true faith. It was essential for them to be familiar with the gospel way of life, skilled in every good work, and to give teaching that was precise, salutary, and scrupulously faithful to the truth they themselves had long pondered, enlightened by the divine radiance. Otherwise they would be blind leaders of the blind. Those imprisoned in the darkness of ignorance can never lead others in the same sorry state to knowledge of the truth. Should they try, both would fall headlong into the ditch of the passions.

To destroy the ostentatious passion of boastfulness and stop people from trying to win greater honor than their teachers, Christ declared: The disciple is not above his teacher. Even if some should advance so far as to equal their teachers in holiness, they ought to remain within the limits set by them, and follow their example. Paul also taught this when he said: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. So then, if the Master does not judge, why are you judging? He came not to judge the world, but to take pity on it.
(On Luke 6: PG 72, 602-603.)

Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, was a brilliant theologian who combatted the Arian and Nestorian heresies. Cyril presided at the Council of Ephesus in 431 where Mary's title as Mother of God was solemnly recognized.

ST. AUGUSTINE: The Testimony of Creation

Then I asked the earth, it responded: "I am not God." When I asked the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars, they said: "Nor are we the God you seek." I said: "Speak to me of my God." Loudly, they exclaimed: "It is He Who made us." The heavens, the earth, and everything that is in them, all these things tell me to love you.
-- Confessions 10, 6

Prayer. It was you, O Lord, who created the heavens and earth. They are beautiful because you are beautiful. They are good because you are good. They have come to be because you are.
-- Confessions 11, 4


[1] In part, the above opinion [viz., that God's existence is self-evident] arises from the custom by which from their earliest days people are brought up to hear and to call upon the name of God. Custom, and especially custom in a child comes to have the force of nature. As a result, what the mind is steeped in from childhood it clings to very firmly, as something known naturally and self-evidently.

[2] In part, however, the above opinion comes about because of a failure to distinguish between that which is self-evident in an absolute sense and that which is self-evident in relation to us. For assuredly that God exists is, absolutely speaking, self-evident, since what God is is His own being. Yet, because we are not able to conceive in our minds that which God is, that God exists remains unknown in relation to us. So, too, that every whole is greater than its part is, absolutely speaking, self-evident; but it would perforce be unknown to one who could not conceive the nature of a whole. ... [A]s it is said in Metaphysics II [Ia, 1], ... “our intellect is related to the most knowable things in reality as the eye of an owl is related to the sun.”’

[3] And, contrary to the point made by the first argument, it does not follow immediately that, as soon as we know the meaning of the name God, the existence of God is known. It does not follow first because it is not known to all, even including those who admit that God exists, that God is that than which a greater cannot be thought. After all, many ancients said that this world itself was God. ... [Even assuming] that everyone should understand by the name God something than which a greater cannot be thought, it will still not be necessary that there exist in reality something than which a greater cannot be thought. ... [T]hat something greater can be thought than anything given in reality or in the intellect is a difficulty only to him who admits that there is something than which a greater cannot be thought in reality. ... 

[J]ust as it is evident to us that a whole is greater than a part of itself, so to those seeing the divine essence in itself it is supremely self-evident that God exists because His essence is His being. But, because we are not able to see His essence, we arrive at the knowledge of His being, not through God Himself, but through His effects.

... [M]an naturally desires God in so far as he naturally desires beatitude, which is a certain likeness of the divine goodness. On this basis, it is not necessary that God considered in Himself be naturally known to man, but only a likeness of God. It remains, therefore, that man is to reach the knowledge of God through reasoning by way of the likenesses of God found in His effects. 
(SCG I, xi)


It often happens that the fire of holy love is still burning in the soul, but it is covered under the ashes of a multitude of venial sins that dull its splendor. These sins, although they do not rob the fire of charity of its force and potential for action, numb it, so to speak, and deprive it of its activity, and so charity remains sterile. In brief, these kinds of sins hold us back in our life of holy love.
(T.L.G. Book 4, Ch. 2; O. IV, pp. 218-219) 


THE Germans have not conquered very much in history as a whole. About fifty years ago [ca. 1870] they beat the French and fifty years before that the French very soundly beat them. If we see history as a whole there is no more doubt that the French people is the more military than there is that the German people is the more musical. Germany is a great and splendid nation; and there are millions of sensible German patriots grappling with the sins and follies which are part of her problem.
('Illustrated London News.')


1 comment:

Danielle said...

Elliot- There's no doubt it was God's good Providence that we were able to meet and have such a refreshing conversation in Baltimore tonight. I plan on becoming a student of your writings because I don't think many people are even coming remotely close to reflecting on that which I've read in excerpts from your blog from the past 5 years.

Praise God! God Bless you!

"Let us be his both by faith and by works, and he will be ours by glory."SFDS