Philoxenus, Ascetic Discourses (1894) pp.lxxiii-xciii. Summary of the Discourses of Philoxenus
Of the period in the life of Philoxenus when the Discourses were written we know nothing, but if we may judge from the fact that all the quotations are taken from the Péshîttâ it must have been before he published his translation of the Bible at Mabbogh in 508. And if we take into consideration the large amount of time which even a rapid worker like Philoxenus would take to perform this difficult task, and add to it the fact that complete copies of the Discourses existed in the monasteries of the Natron Valley in Egypt already in the early part of the sixth century, wherein he is described as Bishop of Mabbogh, it is pretty certain that they were written some years after 485, the year in which he was ordained bishop, and before the close of the Vth century. Without doubt the thirteen Discourses form a whole and connected work, but it seems that they were frequently divided into two volumes; the first volume contained the first nine, and the second volume the last four of the Discourses. It is nowhere said or even hinted by Philoxenus, but it seems very probable that he intended |lxxiv his Discourses to be a supplement to the twenty-two Homilies which Aphrahat or Farhâd [?some script?] (in Greek 'Afraa&thj) composed between the years 337-345.1 Aphrahat or Aphraates wrote Homilies on Faith, Love, Fasting, Prayer, Humility, Wars, the Children of the Covenant, Circumcision, Virginity and Holiness, and upon the subjects which vexed the souls of believers in his day, such as the Resurrection of the Dead, the Sabbath, Easter, and the like, but they, in many places, consist of long strings of Bible quotations, of which about 1135 occur in the work, which is less in length by about one quarter than the Discourses of Philoxenus, and the polemical nature of certain sections is evident. Much of the ground covered by Aphraates is gone over by Philoxenus, and though he never scruples to declare his belief openly, it is stated with a gentleness which, if we only had the accounts of his. theological opponents whereon to rely, we should believe to be quite foreign to his nature. The thought of Aphraates is clear and his language simple, but Philoxenus was a clearer and deeper thinker and, in addition, a closer reasoner than Aphraates, and we see in the Discourses how easily his marvellous command over the Syriac language enabled him to express shades of thought and meaning for which we may look in vain in the writings of Aphraates. The description of motives and the part which they play in the Christian life is given by Philoxenus with a minute fulness not found in Aphraates, but this is partly due to the fact |lxxv that Philoxenus addressed himself chiefly to ascetics. That the reader may be able to judge for himself of the manner in which each of these distinguished Syrian writers treated the same subject, the one, Philoxenus, writing about one hundred and fifty years after the other, a translation of the first homily of Aphraates, that on Faith, has been given at the end of this Introduction, p. clxxvff.; the following brief summary will show the plan of the argument in the Discourses of Philoxenus.
The man who would lead the Christian life rightly must lay a good and firm foundation so that the edifice of his character may not be moved; he must hear the Word and obey it, for if he heareth the Word and obeyeth it not he is like unto a dead man. The disciple must have the remembrance of his Master fixed in his soul, and he must meditate upon it day and night, and "Jesus Christ our God" must be the foundation upon which the foundation of his building of spiritual life must be laid. Farmers know when to sow and plant, and when to reap and gather in fruit, even so must the spiritual farmer know where to begin in his labours and where to end; and a man must learn before he can teach. The lusts which fight against man in every period of his life are well known and easily recognized, but he must learn what to do to overcome in the war of the passions of the soul which ariseth after the conquest of the lusts of the body, and which forces itself into his inmost thoughts. He must |lxxvi learn to feel each sensation of victory and defeat, and to recognize the cause and origin of the lusts which come upon him in public and in solitude. He must learn what is poverty, what commandments to keep, what power is derived from the virtues, how to fast, how to quench passions, how to pray, how to avoid heretics and worldly converse, and how to recognize what constituteth the fasting and the contemplation which belong to the body, soul, and spirit. If a man would put on Christ he must put off the world absolutely, and he must do this when he is young and before the world hath exhausted his soul's power, for new wine must be put into new bottles, and both will be preserved. We must be physicians to ourselves and to each other, and the word of God must be our medicine; for every passion of sin this containeth an antidote (see p. 19-21). When a man hath subdued all passions and lusts he can say, "Yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me."
THE SECOND AND THIRD DISCOURSES----ON FAITH.
A man must first lay hold on the faith which maketh certain that God is, and which enquireth not, and which requireth neither proofs nor testimonies. The pot cannot chide the potter that made it, and a man hath no power to chide God, Who is too great to be investigated by the thoughts; His Nature is inscrutable, as also are His deeds and actions. The man who would draw nigh to God must first believe that He is, and if he do so he must draw nigh like a child to |lxxvii his father; that we might come as children we were born a second time in baptism. Christ proclaimed His kingdom, seek not to search out the manner thereof: thou art called upon only to inherit it, and not to make or to build it. The disciple's duty is to keep the law of the kingdom. God is from everlasting and world without end, He existeth of Himself, and is self-derived; He is not One Person but a self-existent Nature which is believed and confessed in Three Persons. Christ the begotten cannot be separated from Him that begot, but the Father with the Son is everlastingly and eternally of like nature with the Holy Spirit. That these exist is all the disciple needs to know; all else is accepted by faith, without which the natural hearing could not bear the hearing of the things which are spoken about the Three Persons. Faith maketh us to believe in spiritual natures and orders of celestial beings, and to harmonize the different statements about them; our instruction is established by faith, and the whole world of the spirit existeth to us by faith. Without faith the Eternal God would not exist, and faith maketh things which are not to come into being for us. Christ gave us faith first that we might perceive Him, and faith is the tongue of God, and the command of the Creator; it will move mountains and do all things, and it was the source of the power of the Prophets of old. Christ made faith the foundation of His Church to teach all men to make it the foundation of their spiritual life. Fasting, benevolence, the life of the Nazarite and ascetic, humility and everything else are nothing but mere shadows without faith; faith is everything, for faith is sufficient to be everything. Wisdom was with God when He made the heavens and the earth, but |lxxviii in His new creation of baptism faith was His helpmeet; without faith baptism is water only and the Mysteries are wine and bread only. Knowledge cannot occupy the place of faith which cannot be described by the tongue. The Mysteries looked upon with faith become the Body, and Blood, and Spirit of the Only One, and the power of Christ By faith the bodies of the dead saints become living men, and through the revelation of itself to the dead body it hopeth to receive from the Giver what it lacketh. Without faith everything written in the Scriptures becometh a He; it needeth not sight, nor feeling, nor signs, nor wonders, nor arguments, nor testimonies, but the Word of God only. Without faith no righteous man ever pleased God; faith gave us birth and faith is our mother. Faith glorifieth our poverty, it magnifieth the services of the Church, and by it we see the treasures which are laid up in heaven whilst yet we are here upon earth. Faith must be the cause of our forsaking the world, and let faith be to the soul what the eye is to the body; we must cast away the garment of error of the things of this world by faith, but let us take heed that we change not our faith.
THE FOURTH AND FIFTH DISCOURSES----ON SIMPLICITY.
To us hath God given the true faith in His Gospel, but we must be obedient thereunto with simplicity, like the saints of old. Man cannot understand everything and a child hath not the power to receive the deep |lxxix things of the world; so likewise only by faith and simplicity can we understand the Mysteries. Abraham, the Apostles, and Zacchaeus are examples to us of simple belief, and these good men must we emulate; God Himself is called simple, and let us deserve that name. Saint Paul was a fool to the wisdom of the world, but by his knowledge he possessed the wisdom which is above the world. Simplicity is older than faith because faith is the daughter thereof. John the Baptist and all those who lived in the desert were simple folk, hence God led the children of Israel in the wilderness for forty years; those who were destroyed by the pestilence in the wilderness were the people of the former generation which had been corrupted in Egypt, and not those who had grown up in the wilderness. Moses, Joshua, David, Eli, Abel, and Paul are types of simple believers, and the Pharisees and Sadducees represent the cunning and crafty men of this world. Therefore to faith add simplicity from which is born the abundance of the spiritual mind, for without it no virtue can be cultivated; simplicity is the riches of Christ, and craftiness is the possession of the Calumniator. The man who would gratify his passions must become cunning, for only with the knowledge which ariseth therefrom can he find means to cover his wickedness. The life of Jesus is the type of simplicity, and if simplicity were removed therefrom, that life would be destroyed. Craftiness is to the disciple even as the converse with a harlot, and in it are deceit, falsehood, calumny, error, and prevarication; destruction is its friend, adultery and fornication are its friends, and it is the mother of deceit and lies; it is the strong tower of sin wherein all the wicked hide. Let the |lxxx disciple, then, rejoice in the names "simple" and "child", for they proclaim his innocency and freedom from guile. Simplicity lis the field which bringeth forth all virtues, but craftiness is the ground cumbered with brambles and briars. Christ rejected the crafty and chose the ignorant and innocent; the Apostles were a band of simple men, and the opposites in every way of men like Caiaphas and Annas. Without innocency and simplicity no man can enter the kingdom of Christ, Who loved the innocency of children; Jesus Himself was hated because of His simplicity. Faith honoureth simplicity, and even the nobles of this world love it. Take heed to the prophet Isaiah who likened Christ to a simple lamb, and observe how He endured all things silently and did not forsake simplicity; David feigned himself mad to save his life, how much more then must a man sacrifice everything to preserve his spiritual life? The simple mind must not meddle in worldly affairs which it cannot understand without craft and guile; grieve not because thou understandest not the crafts of the world, for the knowledge of the things of the Spirit is our handicraft. The man ignorant of a worldly trade loseth worldly advantage, but the disciple ignorant of Christ's teaching loseth the kingdom of God. Rejoice in simplicity which is pleasing to God and to man, for simplicity of nature is the beginning of the path of the doctrine of Christ, and purity of spirit is the end of the path of righteousness. The simple man influenceth those who are near him, and his dwelling is a peaceful place of rest. We must endeavour to be like unto the disciples through whose simplicity Jesus triumphed. |lxxxi
THE SIXTH AND SEVENTH DISCOURSES----ON THE FEAR OF GOD.
When a man hath laid hold upon faith, which is born of simplicity of nature, the fear of God is stirred up in him, and this fear protecteth him from all evil things, and is as a wall round about him. If a man hath faith he will have fear also, and faith is like an eye which seeth what evil things exist and warneth the soul to be afraid. The remembrance of God is the life of the soul, and the fear of God is a shield against all wickedness, for if man hath it not he cannot remember God. Whosoever is conscious of sin must increase his fear of God, and he must meditate upon it always. When the eyes of the body are opened light entereth through the eyes, and when the fear of God shineth into the mind it rouseth in him consciousness of sin. The man who liveth in the remembrance of God is filled with fear whenever a common movement of lust passeth over his soul. The fear and shame of men preserve the body from lusts, but only the fear and shame of God can preserve the soul from evil things ; therefore a man should hedge himself about with a wall of the fear of God. Be ashamed before God inwardly and thy soul shall be pure, have the fear of Him always before thee and thou shalt be kept from sin; until thou forgettest God thou canst not sin. A naked man is ashamed when looked upon by anyone, even so is the sinful soul ashamed when looked upon by God. Whoso keepeth God's commandments through fear of Him is a true servant, but the labours which are visible are not sufficient to prove a man to be a true fearer of God. Tribulations may train the body, but they cannot cleanse |lxxxii the understanding from sinful motions, and they do not of themselves make the soul to fear God, and the labours of the body are not justified without the service of the soul. Servants fear their earthly masters, then how much more should the disciple fear the Everlasting King? Let thy outer man and thy inner man fear God wholly, for God observeth thee always, and His eyes are ten thousand times brighter than the Sun, and. the walls and roof of thy house cannot screen thee from Him. It is easier to sin in thought than in deed, and to guard against this facility for sin, a man must possess the fear of God which must be swifter than the motion of his thoughts. The fear of God may be called the "guard-house of virtues", for it giveth alms, it quencheth lust, it purifieth the thoughts, it driveth what is hateful from the mind, and it is a shield against all abominable things. Fear is also a schoolmaster to remind a man of what he hath received, and the prophet Jeremiah rebuked those who had cast off the yoke of fear. By fear let us make fear of none effect, and by death let us vanquish death; for the man who is always mindful of the hour of death will not run into sin readily.
The path of the Christian life hath been trodden smooth by the example of the holy men of old, and their foot-marks are, like the sign-posts and mile-stones of a natural road, set to mark out the way for us. The spiritual life is like the ladder which was prefigured by God to Jacob, and we must ascend it step by step, in fitting order; the first step is faith, the second simplicity, and the third the fear of God. But fear is of two kinds ; the fear of a slave and the fear of a friend. The Prophets feared as friends of God and the Jews |lxxxiii as slaves. God must be feared, and we ought to fear Him either because we have sinned, or that we may not sin; and who can contemplate our great God suitably? and who would not be afraid to grieve Him? Whoso feareth God loveth Him, and whoso standeth in perfect love standeth in God. The fear of God is the beginning of the path of the spiritual life, and love is the end thereof. From the Prophets of old it is clear that God demands fear from man, and all His revelations in olden time were of fear; nature feareth Him, and man must likewise. When a man feareth not God he feareth everything else, but if the fear of God be in him, there is no room for the fear of other things to enter therein, for a vessel cannot be full of two different things at the same time.
THE EIGHTH AND NINTH DISCOURSES-ON POVERTY.
Those who live in the world may become justified, but they cannot become perfect, and Christ set grades and steps in His commandments and doctrine for the benefit of those who would follow His footsteps according to their power. The end of the path of righteousness is absolute poverty, for so long as a man possesseth human wealth he cannot follow the heavenly path; he cannot serve God and Mammon. A rich man may be justified, but he cannot become perfect or care wholly for God so long as he keepeth his riches. The rich man is poor spiritually, and the poor man is rich. The proof of this is the absolute poverty of Christ and of His disciples, for He made them to forsake |lxxxiv everything for His sake, and He sent them out to preach His Gospel in absolute poverty ; the very fact of being called to be a Christian indicates self-denial and poverty. The disciple is known by his works ; if thou art destitute then art thou like unto thy God Christ. The righteous stand on a lower level than the perfect; the former fear sin for some reason, but the latter fear it for its own sake. Christ fulfilled all that the law demanded, but He did not give up His own power as God; when He was baptized He had attained unto the limit of the righteousness of the law, but from that time to the Crucifixion He was spiritually perfect. The righteousness of the law is to labour in good works, but spiritual perfection is that which Christ taught between the times of His baptism and Crucifixion. Christ going forth to the wilderness is an excellent example of the doctrine of poverty; let us go forth from the world with nothing but our spiritual armour. When a man embraceth absolute poverty he goeth forth from the world; and by baptism he putteth on the new man, and casteth off the bondage of sin. Poverty is a light thing to those who possess it, and when our Lord lifted riches from the backs of His disciples He lifted from off them a heavy yoke. A man cannot bear the yoke of Christ and the yoke of the world, and all the saints of old who have followed in His steps have abandoned the world utterly. When Christ went forth to the desert He gained freedom, and a man in putting off the world gaineth freedom. The disciple hath two baptisms, one of water, and one of his own freewill; when he hath gone forth from the world devils will be gathered together against him, but he shall overcome them all and make his way through them, even as the Israelites |lxxxv passed through the sea, for the Lord shall fight for him. The disciple will find help in the contemplation of the life of John the Baptist who received the Spirit before he was born, and was an example of absolute poverty. The disciple must also take heed that his discipleship be not for vainglory or for pleasure, and he should not begin to walk in the path of spiritual life unless he is determined to finish in it; whoso hath not made a promise is free, but whoso hath promised is bound. Christ had no home, no shelter and no possessions, and like Him must the disciple be; he must leave everything and follow Him. Moreover the spiritual life will not mingle with the wealth of the world, for if new wine be put into old bottles, the skins burst and the wine is wasted; turn not behind thee, and remember the fate of Lot's wife. Go forth, then, like the Apostles, renew thy spiritual life daily, and let the words, "We have left everything, and have followed Thee", be the motto of thy life. The promise that we shall be heirs of Christ, that our body of humility shall be changed into a spiritual body, and that we shall be glorified with Christ should wake up even a dead body. Ask not what manner of riches thou wilt receive in heaven in exchange for thy poverty here, for no words can describe them. Six things must a man do to arrive at the perfection of Christ: he must depart from evil and not do evil things, he must obey the law, he must do good deeds, he must set out on the path of the spiritual life, he must bear labours and endure sufferings, and he must carry his cross upon his shoulders. A man is born three times; his first birth is from the womb into creation, his second from bondage into freedom, and his third from the carnal into the spiritual |lxxxvi life. The living motions of the spiritually perfect cannot be described by mortal tongue, and their state is the end of the spiritual life.
THE TENTH DISCOURSE----ON THE LUST OF THE BELLY.
Of all evil passions the lust of the belly is that which Divine knowledge most abominateth, for it maketh men like beasts, it darkeneth their minds, and it is the door through which all wickedness entereth into them; the lust of the belly is an obstacle unto everything. The soul is fettered by the weight of meat, but it becometh refined by meagre food. This lust is a stupid thing, for if the belly were large enough to contain all the things after which the glutton lusteth all creation would not satisfy it. The glutton is worse than the beast, for it knoweth when it hath had enough, but the glutton doth not; the lust of the belly is the most disgusting of all the passions, the mother of which it is, and it bringeth a man down to Sheol. The fear of God is the beginning of the path of spiritual life, and this lust is the beginning of the path of all wickedness; if the latter vanquish the former then all spiritual life is destroyed at a blow. The glutton can only eat and blaspheme, and he sayeth and doeth anything to secure the means to lead his debauched life which maketh his soul more degraded and debased than the beasts. The glutton becometh sick through his excesses, and contrary to the words of the physicians he persisteth in his gluttonous habits; the sicknesses which |lxxxvii arise from over-eating belong to the rich and not to the poor. The glutton is a self-destroyer. Christ died for him, and yet he makes himself a grave of meats. The soul of a glutton is like unto the dog which sleeps through all noises, and which only stirreth at the sound of the platter; the glutton walloweth like a pig in the mire of lusts and he must be called a pig. His friends are in reality the friends of his belly, and he loveth only such as minister unto his lusts. He feigneth sickness to avoid the house of prayer, prayer and vigil terrify and torture him, his own prayer is short and his time of eating long, and all things belonging to God are done by him negligently. From such things must the disciple flee, and he must practise self-denial and abstinence. We know that we cannot serve two masters----God and mammon----hovf then can we serve three or more? If we open the door of the lust of the belly all evil passions crowd into our soul through it, and fornication, which destroyeth both body and soul. Meat and drink are the fuel of the fire of lust, and as smoke will darken the pure and clean air, even so will the stink of meat pollute the purity of the mind. But the disciple must avoid the over-eating of common as well as a superabundance of rich foods, for those who occupy themselves with meats will never be benefited thereby; when Israel had an abundance of food he waxed fat and kicked, and from gluttony he fell into lust, and his lust wrought his destruction. If we cannot serve God and mammon we cannot serve the belly and God. The lust of the belly led Adam to ruin, for it brought on sin which ended in death. Let us vanquish the first lust that we may overcome all the others. |lxxxviii
THE ELEVENTH DISCOURSE----ON ABSTINENCE.
The first rule of the spiritual life is to cultivate fasting and abstinence. The disciple must fight against the lusts of the body and cultivate virtues, because for man alone is life reserved in the next world. Hunger is of several kinds, and not all meats satisfy want; the real hunger of nature is not the want of food in the stomach, but the want of the power of the food in the members. Man must not eat whenever he is hungry like the beasts, but he must forbear in order to shew the soul's power. Need too is of different kinds, and when we satisfy a want we must take, care that it is necessary for our life, and that it doth not arise from lust, or health, or strength. The disciple must eat like a free man and not as a slave. If the lust of food overcome thee, O disciple, all other lusts will do the same; but if when are all gathered together against thee thou dost vanquish them one by one, they will be powerless to harm thee. In fighting think of the joys which are to come, and remember that by thy garb thou art dedicated to the spiritual life. When the lust of the belly joineth itself unto hunger against thee, stand up in prayer and despise it, even as mighty warriors scoff at those who are weaker; the lust of the belly be-longeth to childhood, therefore fight it like a man, and defeat it. But abstinence is the refraining from poor and common meats as much as from costly ones; from whatever thou lustest for thou must abstain. Eat not abundantly even of garden herbs lest thou be moved to fornication; the food is not to be blamed, except when lust eateth it. Whosoever eateth |lxxxix with lust rejecteth the Lord Who is in him. There is a great difference between the manner in which Esau and Elijah ate, and let us imitate Elijah and David, and the angels who ate with Abraham; the habit of abstinence bringeth freedom. Eat not to sin, drink not to error, and fast, that thy prayer may be pure. The lust of the belly ruined Cain, and brought blame upon Noah, Esau, the Sodomites, the children of Seth, the people of Israel, and upon Eli and Solomon. If the righteous men of the world need fasting and abstinence, how much more do those who have gone forth from the world to follow the spiritual life? Let us remember too that a full belly cannot produce a refined mind, and let us take away from the body that we may give to the soul. Spiritually minded men only need simple and sparing food, as is proved by the case of the children who were brought up at Babylon, who chose vegetable diet and not the dainty food of meats; their abstinence procured for them the wisdom of the Most High. To the disciple the table, which is a place of pleasure for others, must be a field of battle whereon he must overcome and slay the lust of the belly and those which spring from it; Christ began with fasting, let him do likewise, and the Apostles only received their greatest gifts after they had fasted and prayed. If we suffer with Christ we shall reign with Him. |xc
THE TWELFTH AND THIRTEENTH DISCOURSES----ON FORNICATION.
The lust for carnal intercourse hath been placed in our bodies by the Creator for the continuation of the world, but it must be to the disciple a reason for fighting and a cause of receiving crowns of victory. This lust is hotter and sweeter than any other lust, therefore must the fight against it be fierce, for though an excellent thing when coupled with marriage, yet is it a disgrace to those who have adopted the spiritual life. Adam and Eve were spiritual until lust moved in their members, and this shewed that the lust of the spirit precedeth the lust of the body in us. Fornication was the first thorn which sprang from the lust of the belly, and it is as a thorn in the spiritual eye; it destroyeth the sight of those who have not seen what is spiritual, and of those who have. Only when the beauty of the Eternal is destroyed in the soul can it subject itself to bodily beauty. The lust of the belly and the lust of fornication can only overcome a man when they are helped by him, and the disciple can conquer them if he will abstain from the food which is the fuel of the lust. Eat bread by weight, drink water by measure, avoid carnal pleasures, load thyself with afflictions and labours which will safeguard thee, torture thyself by hunger and thirst, vex thy body with watching, let it crave for sleep, but let it not sleep; gratify it in nothing, for pleasures beget lust. Listen not to stories of lust, keep away from thee the sight of the person which hath led thee captive, and uproot the remembrance of its beauty from thy mind. |xci
Mention not the word fornication, eat not food and drink not wine overmuch, look not upon beauty, flee the converse of women, and arm thyself against lust with wrath. Direct all thine energies to save thy soul from lust, show not a glad face to it, but turn against it with a malignant eye, for lust is like the whore in the market-place who fleeth before a severe gaze. When the chaste .mind putteth on lust it is as if a chaste and dignified man of the city were to carry a whore upon his shoulders through the market-place and through the streets and open places of the city. The fornication of the body is the act of adultery, but the fornication of the soul is when the thoughts thereof have intercourse secretly with the lust of fornication, and the fornication of the spirit is when the soul hath intercourse with devils. When the body hath intercourse with the soul, and the soul with the spirit, and through the spirit with the Trinity, in very truth the words, "The Lord is over all, and in us all", are accomplished. Let, however, lust move in thy body, not that thou mayest be defeated, but that thou mayest overcome it, for what training is so good as that which a man receiveth when he findeth victory over his passions? No lust is so unprofitable as that of fornication, and none is so absolutely weak; it hath no advantages, its season of enjoyment is short, and repentance, and fear, and shame, and terror, and loss, and evil name, and mockery all accompany this hot and fierce passion. We must be chaste outwardly before men, and inwardly before God, and our Lord, wishing to remove the cause and origin of lust from His disciples, said, "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her |xcii hath already committed adultery with her in his heart", for He looked into our thoughts. Many men fornicate continually in their souls, and this kind of fornication must be especially avoided; the pain of lust maketh thee to suffer pain, therefore learn the cause thereof, and cut it off. A man must overcome his lusts in his youth; while there is still heat in thy body and natural lust liveth in thy members, be zealous to kindle in thee the heat of the spirit. Sow virtues in thy youth that thou mayest reap therefrom in thine old age; pluck things of excellence from the noontide of thy manhood, and lay them up for thy winter store. In fornication is all wickedness, and it is the helpmeet of all sin, and the disciple is bound to overcome the passion thereof in deed and in thought; if it be driven out of the thoughts it cannot live in the body. The Israelites who fought under Gideon must be examples unto us, for they drank water sparingly, and the blasts of their horns are types of the holy words which were uttered against the passion of fornication, and the breaking of the pitchers symbolizes the destruction of the passion of fornication. God warned the Israelites against the lust of the thoughts more than against the act of adultery, for He did not say, "Thou shalt not commit adultery with thy neighbour's wife", but, "Thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour's wife". Let us make examples to ourselves of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, and if with these in view, we fall, we are feeble folk. Finally let us shut out sights and converse which are the entrances of lust, let us seal the fountain of our bodies, and let us cleanse our thoughts. If we can do this we |xciii shall be at peace, and the course of our ship will be into the haven of peace, and we shall become a counterpart of the heavenly hosts. Though living in the body we shall be in the spirit, and shall live the life of the world to come, and we shall learn the cause of the coming of Christ into the world, which those who live in the body can never know.
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1. 1 The Syriac text was published by Wright, The Homilies of Aphraates, London, 1869. A complete German translation by Bert appeared in Harnack's Untersuchungen, Leipzig, 1888.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2003. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.
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