Book notes – “Gifts of the Desert”, Chapter 11

“… Gradually we will learn how to focus our thoughts and pray with intensity.”

“So we should not despair if we keep falling asleep during prayer or if our mind is wandering during prayer,” I said.

“Naturally not. All of us suffer from such shortcomings. We may read whole pages from the Psalms and after a while we realize that our mind was not there and we have no clue what we read. Only angels and those who have reached their angelic condition do not suffer from such problems of focusing the mind on prayer. When we are in elementary school we must first learn the alphabet, and then move on from there. We do not punish little kids when they face difficulties as they clumsily try to read a book. It takes time, practice, and growth to master such skills. We could not expect a child to act as if he is a university graduate. It’s the same with prayer. When we are beginners we are bound to face difficulties and make mistakes. We will pray in an imperfect way. Having that in mind, we must not lose our courage and interest in getting into the habit of prayer.”

“After all,” I mentioned, “persistence and hard work are necessary to master any skill … “

What is true of prayer, here, is true of the Christian spiritual life. So don’t be discouraged if you sin. Have the will to repent and keep advancing. Overall, keep advancing while you are not sinning. For those who are imitating Paul, keep growing the word of God in your heart (growing the amount of Scripture that you know by heart, remembering to recite several times a week what you memorized, so as to not lose it). For those who are imitating the saints who have mercy on the poor, keep having mercy on the poor until the day that you die. For those who are imitating Christ the pastor and presbyter, endure in being a good shepherd till the end.

Paul is only one of twelve imitations of Christ. There are also seventy more imitations of Christ (apostles of the seventy). There are other imitations of Christ, which are the other saints of the Orthodox Church.

In other words, memorizing the Scripture completely is only one of many imitations of Christ. You don’t have to memorize Scripture if it is above your strength. There are also people who don’t have time because they have to work, or raise kids. You can keep donating small amounts of money to the poor, and do it once a week for the rest of your life, and you will go to heaven. But you must keep doing it for the rest of your life. That’s another way to imitate Christ. “… he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 10:22

Posted in Orthodox books

Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily 6

As a cloud veils the moon, so the vapors of the belly banish the wisdom of God from the soul. What the flame of fire is to dry wood, this also is bodily lust to a full belly. As combustible matter added to combustible matter increases the flame of fire, so succulence (deliciousness) of food increases the lustful movements of the body. The knowledge of God does not dwell in a pleasure-loving body, and the man who loves his own body will not obtain divine gifts. Just as from labor-pangs a fruit is born that delights its mother, so from toil there is born in the soul the knowledge of the mysteries of God; but slothfulness and pleasure-loving men reap the fruit of shame. As a father cares for his child, so Christ also cares for the body enduring hardship for His sake, and He is near to its mouth at all times. Priceless is the possession of labor wrought with wisdom.

A mourner is he who passes all the days of his life in hunger and thirst for the sake of his hope in good things to come.

From “Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian”, Homily 6, page 170
(page numbers according to the book of the same title published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston, United States of America, revised second edition)

Posted in Orthodox books

Retractions #6 The branches are people, leaves are (pages of) commandments. Also the tree of monasticism.

The branches of the tree are the people who gave commandments.
The leaves of the tree are the (pages of) commandments you follow.

This corrects what is in section 2 of “Various Bible thoughts #2”, which now begins with:

The parable of the tree of life in your inner person, if you are a believer: the roots are the two greatest commandments and the fear of God, the trunk is the main teacher you are imitating which is Christ, and the branches are the writers of Holy Scriptures, the leaves are (the pages of) commandments you remember to follow. The fruits are the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) …

If you are a monastic, the roots are the same, the main teacher is Christ (I think), the branches are Saint Anthony the Great or similar people, and the leaves are “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”, “The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian”, the monastic rule of Saint Pachomius, and others like these.

The monastics obviously have all 9 fruits of Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, except joy which is not obvious.  I don’t know if all monks have joy.

Posted in Bible exegesis/commentary by me

Various Bible thoughts #8

  1. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
    And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
    But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
    And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
    Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
    And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
    And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
    And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
    And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
    For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
    And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
    Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
    And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
    (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
    For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
    But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
    Luke 19:12-27

    Christ mentions the kingdom of God in Luke 19:11, just preceding this portion.
    So the kingdom of God is talked about in this parable.
    Ten servants are diligence (roots) plus the nine fruits of 2 Peter 1:5-7 (tree of knowledge of God)

    And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
    And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
    And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
    For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    2 Peter 1:5-8

    Luke 19:16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
    Luke 19:18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.

    Luke 19:16 faith has borne 10 fruits
    Luke 19:18 virtue has borne 5 fruits. There are 4 cardinal virtues, in the West they are known as justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude.

    Fortitude is the courage to endure, not merely courage.

    Luke 19:20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:

    Luke 19:20 This “another” could be knowledge, the third. And his knowledge did not bear fruit.

  2. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, …
    Luke 22:31

    The Lord is calling the two good trees in his heart: the tree of life (Galatians 5:22-23) and the tree of knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:5-7)

  3. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
    He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
    And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
    Matthew 19:7-9

    Moses is a writer of Scripture.
    Christ’s very person, which is more complete than Scripture, has doctrines that are higher than the Scripture.
    This is what you can conclude by reading the portion above (Matthew 19:7-19).

  4. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh
    Matthew 19:5

    Cleave to the words of Scripture, that they are joined to your heart, and the two become one.

  5. Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
    But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
    Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Matthew 19:21-23

    Jesus told him to aim for perfection and do the works for that purpose.
    The young man refused to aim for perfection.
    Then after he went away, Jesus spoke to his disciples.
    This means the young man is not a disciple of Jesus.
    He is part of the multitudes, which also followed Jesus, but they faint even without persecution.
    The disciples of Jesus faint during persecution (they abandoned him and fled).
    But when they were beyond being disciples, and were called apostles in the book of Acts, then they did not faint during persecution.

    But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
    Matthew 9:36

    … Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.
    Matthew 26:56

  6. Now for the strict and loose standards for the rich and the poor.

    And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
    Matthew 19:24

    The rich man’s heart is a camel, for he hoards much and gives not much.

    For a rich man to enter heaven, the standard of purity, or lack of self-will, the impurity cannot be more than a speck, to pass through the eye of the needle.
    For poor men, it is not so strict.
    Because “… For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required …”. (Luke 12:48)

    And Matthew 19:24 speaks of the materially rich.

    If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
    1 Corinthians 3:17

    The strict interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3:17 is that the temple is the heart.
    The looser interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3:17 is that the temple is the body.
    Strict standard for the rich. (the materially rich)
    Loose standard for the poor. (the materially poor)

    So the rich must not sin in their heart.
    The poor only have to not sin with their body.

  7. Paul is the least of apostles.
    Paul is also great among apostles, because the least is great (Luke 9:48)
    Paul is also the greatest, because:
    The least and the greatest are the same in God’s kingdom.
    Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.

    For I am the least of the apostles …
    1 Corinthians 15:9 (Paul speaking)

    … he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
    Luke 9:48

    … I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last …
    Revelation 1:11 (Christ speaking)

Posted in Bible exegesis/commentary by me

If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub …

… If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub (the devil), how much more shall they call them of his household?
Matthew 10:25

I think the revelations are coming from God. There were a few mistakes, but probably because of it passed through me, and I am an intemperate man, I don’t have moderation in some things.

As for the verse “without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), I will mention it here, because it’s at the beginning of a post. I will write it again in the next post, but it will be in the midst of things.

At first, I thought to “see” the Lord is to go meet him, because in modern English, to “see” someone is to go meet him.
But to see the Lord is to see Him revealed.

There is a related verse that says:

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
1 Corinthians 3:17

The strict interpretation of this verse is: temple is the heart, so if your heart is defiled, then you are not in a state to enter heaven.
The looser interpretation of this verse is: temple is the body, so if your physical body is involved in sin, then you are not in a state to enter heaven.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Matthew 19:24

The rich man’s impurity in the heart must not be bigger than a speck. For those who are materially rich.  The standards of entering heaven is strict for the rich man.
But the standards are looser for the poor man. Those who are materially poor. It was not said of Lazarus that he was holy, only that he endured his poverty without complaint. This in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
So for the poor man, God would apply the looser interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3:17, and only require their bodies to be not defiled (not going to prostitutes, not doing drugs).
But for the rich man, God would apply the strict interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3:17, and require their hearts to be not defiled, and have impurity only the size of a speck.

So if you are poor, then God has mercy on you.
But if you are rich, then God is incredibly strict in his expectations towards you.

So don’t get rich. And don’t desire getting rich.

China should not seek to get rich, and try to make other countries rich.
Being rich is harmful.

Posted in Bible exegesis/commentary by me

Consider this

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.
And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at evening …
1 King 22:34-35

I think I am that random person, who did not aim, and slew the wicked self of some person.
So I am not a prophet, not an evangelist, not a pastor and teacher, not an apostle especially.

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:28

I am some random person who “helps”.

The apostles are those who build Orthodox churches from scratch (not talking about material buildings).
The prophets are the monastic elders, if they are not schismatic.
The teachers are the priests and bishops.

You should not take me too seriously. You should still call the priests “father”, and your own parent. It seems to contradict that commandment of Christ. But the Church allows divorce for 3 reasons: adultery, abuse, neglect, when that seems to contradict the commandment of Christ, who said that only for adultery can people divorce. But the reasoning is that when adultery happens, the relationship is broken. When abuse and neglect happens, the relationship is also broken.

So trust the church, it has been calling the priests “father” since 2000 years. God said nothing about this to the prophets (monastic elders) during that time. So the church must be correct.
If the whole church agree on something, then that is correct.

Posted in Uncategorized

Retraction #5: Memorization is not required to attain perfection

There are 12 gates of heaven, so there are 12 different ways of attaining perfection.
– Memorizing all the Scripture, then obeying all the commandments, is only one way of attaining perfection. This is the entrance of Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
– There is entering heaven by martyrdom. Most of the martyrs did not memorize the whole Bible.
– There is entering by suffering. By suffering was Christ made perfect (Hebrews 2:10). Lazarus (in Luke 16:20-31) entered heaven through suffering poverty. The thief on the cross on the right side entered heaven through suffering crucifixion with faith.
– There is entering by doing well the job of a priest or presbyter. 1 Peter 5:1-4
– There is entering by showing mercy to the poor Matthew 25:31-46
– There are other ways of entering.

You shouldn’t try anything that is above your strength.
I myself don’t have to enter by the Timothy entrance.  So I myself don’t have to memorize the Bible.

Priests don’t need to memorize the whole Bible, they only need to do their job well, according to 1 Peter 5:1-4.

So you don’t have to memorize the Scriptures. You can remember and obey from reading.
If you are particularly weak in an area, then you can memorize the portion of the Bible that applies to your weakness.

You will be judged by the commandments you learn, and (also) by the moral good that you know even before you learned anything from the Bible.

For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
2 Corinthians 8:12

What you have, is what you know.
But you need to know some Bible at least, if you know how to read, or God will call you lazy because your talent of reading was unused and buried in the ground.

Posted in Bible exegesis/commentary by me