Philoxenus, Ascetic Discourses (1894) pp.1-22. Discourse 1 (Prologue)
[Page 3], THE DISCOURSES UPON DISCIPLINE OF LIFE AND CHARACTER WHICH WERE DELIVERED BY THE BLESSED MAR PHILOXENUS, BISHOP OF MABBOGH, IN WHICH IS SET FORTH THE WHOLE ORDER OF INSTRUCTION ---- HOW A MAN SHOULD BEGIN THE DISCIPLESHIP OF CHRIST, AND IN WHAT LAWS AND MANNER OF LIFE HE SHOULD WALK UNTIL HE ARRIVETH AT SPIRITUAL LOVE, FROM WHICH IS BORN PERFECTION, AND IN WHICH WE BECOME CHILDREN OF THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST, EVEN AS SPAKE PAUL THE APOSTLE.1 NOW THE FIRST DISCOURSE IS BY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD THE PROLOGUE TO ALL THIS VOLUME.
Our Lord and our Redeemer Jesus Christ in His living Gospel invited us to draw nigh in wisdom to the work of keeping His commandments, and to lay within ourselves the foundation of His discipline rightly, in order that the edifice of our life and character might mount up straightly. For he who knoweth not how to begin wisely the building of this tower which goeth up to heaven is not able to complete [it] or to bring it to the finish which is of wisdom. For knowledge and wisdom should order, and arrange, and [p. 4] work the beginning and end and founding2 [of the edifice], |2 and whosoever beginneth thus is called a wise man by the word of our Redeemer, "Whosoever heareth these My words, and doeth them, is like unto a wise man who hath dug, and made deep, and set his building upon the rock: and the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for its foundations were laid upon the rock. But whosoever heareth and doeth not, is like unto a foolish man who set his building upon the sand, and even if feeble things beat upon his building they will sweep it away".3 We are therefore bound by the word of our Teacher not to be constant listeners only to the Word of God but also constant doers.4 For the man who, though listening not, doeth, is better than the man who is constant in listening and empty of works, even as the word of the apostle Paul teacheth us, "For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified: for if the Gentiles which have no law do by their own nature [the things] of the law, these, having no law, are a law unto themselves; and they show the work of the law written upon their hearts, and their conscience testifieth concerning them".5 The hearing of the law is good, for it bringeth to the works thereof, [p. 5] and reading and meditation in the Scriptures, which purify our secret understanding from thoughts of evil things, are good, but if a man is constant in reading, and in hearing, and in the meditation of the word of |3 God, and yet perfecteth not by his reading the labour of works, against this man hath the Spirit of God spoken by the hand of the blessed David, rebuking and reproving his wickedness, and restraining him from taking even the Holy Book into his polluted hands, saying, "For to the sinner speaketh God, What "hast thou [to do] with the books of My commandments, that thou hast taken My covenant in thy mouth? Thou hast hated My instruction, and thou hast cast My words behind thee,"6 together with the other things which are written after these. Now as for the man who is constant in reading and remote from deeds, his reading is his own condemnation, and he is the more deserving of judgment, in that while he listeneth every day, he mocketh and is contemptuous every day, and he is thenceforth like a dead man and a corpse which hath no feeling, for if ten thousand trumpets and horns were to blow in the ear of a dead man he would not hear [them]; even thus is the soul which is dead in sins. And the understanding, from which the remembrance of God hath perished in the death-dealing error of the thoughts [of evil things], will not hear the sound of the cries of the divine voices, nor will the trumpet of the word of the Spirit move it, but it is sunk into the sleep of death which is pleasant to it; and although dying, it perceiveth not its death that it might turn and seek life for itself. And as the man who hath died according to nature is not sensible of his death, even so the dead man who dieth by his own will to the knowledge of God feeleth not his death, [p. 6] nor perceiveth his destruction, that he might find |4 a way and seek out an invention of life for himself. For also when God saw the dying condition of the Jews who of their own will stopped their ears, and blinded their eyes, and made thick their hearts against the remembrance of the knowledge of God, He stirred up Isaiah to rouse them up, and cried to him to cry into their ears, saying, "Cry with thy throat, and spare not, and lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew My people their iniquity, and the house of Jacob their sins".7 And again in another place8 the same prophet saith, "He said to me, Cry. And I said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is like the grass of the field". Yea, "like the grass" and like the herb which drieth up before the sun, which when once its natural juiciness and moisture have dried up neither the rain nor all the watering of the fountains can make grow green again, even so became the nation which was dead to all the vivification of the Spirit, and like grass and straw it became dry and withered by reason of the noonday heat of error, and by the hotness of evil things. The soul dieth without the remembrance of God, and when it dieth all its discretion dieth therewith, and all its emotions of thought of heavenly things are annihilated therefrom. While the soul liveth in its natural state it is dying by its own desire; and while it is found in uprightness it is lost in respect of its freedom.
The disciple of God, then, should seek to have the remembrance of his Master Jesus Christ fixed in his soul and to meditate upon it day and night, [p. 7] And it is right for him to know where he should begin, and |5 how and where he must raise the structure of his building, and how he should begin and finish it, that he be not laughed at by all those who pass along the road, even as our Lord spake concerning that man who began to build a tower and was not able to finish it, that he became a laughing-stock and a mockery to all who saw him.9 And who is this man who began the building of the tower of whom our Redeemer spake, if it be not the man who setteth out on the path of the Gospel of Christ? Now the beginning of the building of this disciple who hath agreed to go forth from the world and to keep the commandments is his promise and his covenant with God; and he should begin, and run his course, and finish it, collecting and bringing together from all places fine stones of a noble life and character for the building of the tower which reacheth up to heaven. Now the foundation is set and laid, and is, according to the word of Paul,10 "Jesus Christ our God," and every man, howsoever he pleaseth, buildeth upon that foundation. For by His love the foundation hath been laid down once and for all to receive everything which might be set upon it, until the coming of the day of the revelation in which the work of every man will be tested and proved; and He who hath been the foundation stone in the corner of the building will go up and become the Judge and Head in the top of the building. And according to what Paul himself spake, "If any man buildeth on this foundation gold, [p. 8] or silver, or stones of price, or wood, or hay, or stubble, each man's work shall be revealed, for that day shall reveal it, inasmuch as |6 it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall prove each man's work of what sort it is."11 Now Paul likeneth the conduct of Christian life and character and the beauties of righteousness to gold and silver and precious stones, and among these faith is as gold, and the restraining of the passions and desires, and fasting, and self-denial and the other works of righteousness are as silver; and he likeneth to precious stones love, and peace, and hope, and pure thoughts, and holy meditations, and a mind which is wholly afraid in the Spirit, and which at all times reserveth in all its emotions wonder at God and admiration for the majesty of His Being, and an understanding which keepeth silence in trembling before the inexplicable and inexpressible mysteries of God. Now these heavenly thoughts, and emotions, and anxious fears, and life of the Spirit Paul calleth "precious stones;" and error and wickedness and the ministry of all the lusts he calleth wood, and hay, and stubble. And since the building itself is fixed in the ground every man can build and raise upon it whatsoever he pleaseth, until the day which shall decide is revealed, and He shall come of Whom it is said, "He holdeth His fan in His hand and He will purify His threshing-floors; and He will gather His wheat into the garner, but the straw He will burn up with unquenchable fire."12 And the Husbandman who planted in the world the tree of our mankind will shew Himself [to be] the Judge, and He will hold in His hand the axe for cutting down [p. 9], and every tree which beareth not good fruit He will cut down and cast into the fire. When that Fisherman |7 who hath cast His net into the sea of the world, and hath filled it with fish, both great and small, which are the races and families of mankind, and the nations and tribes of the children of flesh, of divers tongues and innumerable kinds, shall appear He will strike and bring up His net to the sea shore, even as He Himself hath said, and He will gather together the fine fish and cast them into His baskets,13 which are the living treasuries of His kingdom, and the poor ones He will cast forth into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. These things are laid up to take place through Him at that time when the Prince of the shepherds shall be revealed in the glory of His kingdom. The time of trial is one, the time of teaching is another, the time of reading is another, and the time of proving is another; and as in this season of teaching there is no [time of] trial, even so in that season of trial there will be no [time of] teaching.
Let us therefore, my beloved, hearken unto the living voice of God Who hath called us to give us life everlasting. His voices are filled with life, and they give life unto him that will hearken unto them. With life are those living voices filled, and by the living voices is life given unto those who with a living hearing incline their ears unto their words.
But inasmuch as it is meet for us to speak separately concerning each matter in its place, and to make known in our discourse which cometh first and which cometh last, and how these good things, one after the other, should be kept and perfected, [p. 10] we have composed this introduction to be an encouragement to the |8 reader [to proceed] to the wealth of the things which follow after. For it is meet for the man who would begin in the way of the Commandments, of Christ to know where he should begin, and what stone should properly be the first in the edifice of his instruction, and what stone should be second, and what stone should be third, lest being ignorant of the art of building, and not having learned where to begin, he know not also where and how to finish, and lest, by reason of his lack of knowledge of instruction, he make the last things first and the first last, and place some of them in the middle. Now if the farmers and husbandmen of [this] world know that there are certain seasons for sowing grain and planting trees, and others for harvest and the ingathering of fruit, and they preserve the order of the seasons that their affairs suffer not injury and become not confused, how much more is it meet for the spiritual farmer and husbandman and for the true disciple to know what things befit his first beginning in instruction, and where it is proper for him to begin? so that having laid the first stone in its place in the foundation of his teaching, he may build up the whole of the building according to the law. And in this manner both builders and architects work, for having begun to lay the foundation of their building with fine, large stones, and great strong doorposts and sockets,14 even though they set in the building itself those which are inferior, the solid foundation is able to receive and to carry substances which are less strong. But if in the foundations which |9 are beneath they were to lay [p. 11] small or bad stones, and upon them massive and fine stones, all their building would be overturned and would fall down. And again, let us take an example also from the learned who transmit instruction to the young, and who teach them knowledge according to rule. They do not pass over [certain of the] canons of instruction and disturb the order thereof and the consecutiveness of human learning, but they know which to give first and which should follow after, until the learner arriveth at the limit of his capacity for learning. And so also according to law is this instruction in proper order known among all the handicrafts of the world. For those things which are given to apprentices to do when they first of all begin to learn their craft, are, according to their feeble capacity, the unimportant things in the handicraft, and their masters shew them how to do them, so that if it should happen that there be a loss the loss is a little one. Even so is it with those who learn the art of the strife of the Christian life, for it is laid down for them with what forms of contests they must begin with first of all, and with what grades they must mount up and ascend in the art of the strife of the Christian life. First of all they must learn to exhibit towards each other the readiness of standing in position, and after this they must throw their hands each upon each, and thus they are stimulated, and draw nigh to the perfect contest.
And again also those who are chosen for the military service of [this] world learn the art of war on this system, [p. 12] and their instruction is neither confounded nor confused, but each of the things which they learn they learn in its proper place and order. And so with every |10 thing else in [this] world, of which the beginning and middle and end are known. Now therefore, [judging] from the examples of the demonstrations which we have brought, this systematic order of things is especially useful to us, and the knowledge of the first rule of conduct of the Christian life and of that which followeth is very necessary for us; for it is in this world that the art of spiritual strife is to be learned, and we have been chosen for the service of those who are in heaven. And just as those who are chosen to perform service before the kings of [this] world learn the king's laws and customs from those who have served before them, and those who come last learn from those who have been before them how to walk, and how to dress and how to talk, and how far they may properly speak in his presence, and those who have been newly chosen [learn] from those who have been before them, even so also in this case it is necessary for the man who hath been chosen, whether by his own decision or by the promise of his parents that he should serve Christ, that he should learn this service from those who have [served] before him, or from the Holy Scriptures, or from men of the spirit who have walked in this path according to the law, and who began with works, and have finished in the spirit and have been made perfect in love.
Now those lusts which fight against us in the beginning [p. 13] of our youth are well known, and also those which war against us in the middle of youth, and at the end of the period of youth. And those which fight against us in the beginning, and middle, and end of [our] manhood, and those [which fight against us] in the stage which is after manhood in the |11 self-same manner, even from the beginning until the end of this period, are well known; and also those passions, which in the time of old age war against us until our going forth from the world, and also what are those which come into being from us in infancy and childhood in emotions and natural movements, before the discernment of freewill hath been moved in it, and before we arrive at the knowledge which distinguisheth virtues from vices. And moreover, it is meet that we should know at the time when we are leading the Christian life and doing the works thereof which passion fighteth with which, and which lust contendeth with which, and at the end of that good work what evil thing can be stirred up against us, and how in [our] overcoming one lust another gaineth the victory, and how when we have subdued the lusts of the body there is stirred up against us the war of the passions of the soul, and how when we have cast out the evil thing from us it returneth to array itself with our innermost thoughts, and when we have slain it in our bodily members it cometh to life in the living motions of the soul, and when we have cut it off and cast it out from us it entereth and lieth in ambush [p. 14] that it may be within us. And [we should know] what feeling is born to the soul by the fasting of the body, and what feeling by self-denial, and what feeling by singing psalms and hymns with the voice, and what feeling by prayer in silence, and what feeling by the lack of possessions, and what feeling by poverty of dress. And [we should know] what feeling is born in us by general loving-kindness to all mankind, and what feeling is stirred up in us when our conduct of life is more excellent than that of our brother, and what feelings arise from the knowledge |12 of the mind, and what feelings arise from words of instruction, and what feelings arise from the words which are handed on to us in books. And [we should know] into what feeling we shall fall when we have conquered the lust of the belly in everything, and what feeling is stirred up against us at the end of the triumph of the war against fornication, and what feeling is born in us by obedience to those in authority, and by obedience to every man, and what are the feelings which arise in us when we resist obedience, and by what doctrine the opinion which will not be persuaded by its teachers may be abated, and by what consideration we may root up from ourselves the doubt [which cometh] from knowledge which ariseth in us against our soul. And [we should know] what feelings can be conquered by other feelings, and what lusts can be abated by others, and of what [nature] is the war against things of the body, and of what [nature] is that which is against the things of the soul and against things of the spirit, and [we should know] what it is meet that corporeal beings should do when they wish to overcome the lusts of the body, and what beings endowed with souls [should do] [p. 15] to overcome the passions of the soul, and what spiritual beings [should do] to be delivered from the failings15 which befall spiritual beings in the country of the spirit. And [we should know] how far the fight can be extended in each one of these series, and how we may know when the emotion of lust springeth from ourselves, and how and when it befalleth us externally at the instigation of the Enemy, and by what things the lust which is born of ourselves |13 and that lust which the Adversary stirreth up against us may be overcome, and whether by any means that same lust can be overcome at all times, or whether in order to overcome at other times other means are necessary to us. And [we should know] how, and by what [means], we may perceive when, either by the power of our endurance or by the grace of God, our lusts have been vanquished by us, and what manner of strife may be stirred up against us when we are among men, and also what manner of strife may be raised up against us when we are in solitude, and how the soul may be especially purified and cleansed, and what place is an assistance to the labour of the body. And [we should know] with what things it is meet that we should begin when we have drawn nigh to the discipleship of Christ, and what feeling will be aroused in us at the praise which may be bestowed upon us by people in authority, whether by reason of our knowledge or on account of our rule of life, and what feeling will be aroused in us when we are applauded by the greater number of the assembly in church. And [we should know] with what thoughts we should observe the onset of passions, and how we may guard ourselves from being disturbed by them when they attack us, and what [p. 16] opinions we may take unto ourselves when we overcome their struggling. And [we should know] how we may obtain the possession of humility, and with what thoughts we may abate in us the pride which is the opposite of humility, and with what minds we may hold fast patience within ourselves. And [we should know] what is the poverty of the body, and what is the renunciation of [the things of this] world, and what is the poverty of the soul, and how when we |14 have made ourselves beggars in respect of the riches of the things which are seen we may possess the wealth of the gifts of Christ. And [we should know] what commandments are meet for us to observe at the beginning of our instruction, and how we should listen to our teachers, who give us counsel and teach us good things, without observing their shortcomings. And [we should know] what power our soul obtaineth from each, one of the virtues which are exercised by us, and how it is meet for us to bear ourselves in a correct manner in the dwellings of our brethren. And [we should know] to what extent it is right for us to fast, and how at all times likewise [we may know] how to add unto or to diminish our bodily food, and how and in what way it is meet for us to endure patiently when the war of lust attacketh us. And [we should know] what to do when we desire to quench the passions of the soul in ourselves, and with what meditation of the mind we may root out enmity from us. And [we should know] how and whence pure prayer is born in us, and what intuitions strike us by the admiration of God, and how we should move within ourselves at all times a passion for God, and how many are the feelings and aspects which belong to this passion for God, and how when we come [p. 17] into a life of contemplation we may preserve our thoughts from wandering outside ourselves. And [we should know] what loss will arise to a man from communion with heretics, and how by human conversations and meetings our heart is made thick, and how the remembrance and the thought of God are darkened. And it is meet that we should know what is fasting of the body, and what is fasting of the soul, and what is fasting of the spirit; and what is purity of the body, and |15 purity of the soul, and purity of the spirit; and what is poverty of the body, and poverty of the soul, and poverty of the spirit. And [we should know] what are the distinguishing characteristics of contemplation of the body, and of the soul, and of the spirit; and how the soul may be taught to fast from evil things, even also in like manner as the body is taught to fast from meats.
These and many other things like unto them the disciple of Christ is bound to learn and to know in order to walk confidently on the path of his service, and to do the will of the heavenly King Whom he serveth. For if those who learn the handicrafts of [this] world learn carefully all the secrets of their trades, and are incited to know all the [different] kinds of work which are in each of them, how much more is it meet for him that hath been chosen for this spiritual trade----if we are right in calling it a trade----to know all the ways, and paths, and signs, and marks of the mysteries of this Divine manner of life? And he should know that, although he is a man according to the body, he is chosen to work spiritual things, and that, by the grace of God, he hath been held worthy of the life of heavenly things, [p. 18] and that, although he existeth in the flesh in [this] world, he should walk in the path which is superior to his nature.
We are bound then, if we be disciples, to ask and to learn all those things whereby we may obtain our living like disciples; and as disciples learn their crafts from their masters, even, so let us learn and receive [instruction] from our spiritual masters. Now no man is able to become a master except he be first of all a disciple, and he cannot help and profit others unless he gathereth useful things from others, and subdueth |16 himself to receive [instruction] and to learn from every man, and esteemeth every man greater and more excellent than himself. For our nature hath been created, and when as yet we were not we existed in the will of the Creator, and we have [but] recently been able to possess the doctrine of good things. And as we came into existence from a condition of non-existence, even so from [being] sinners have we become righteous. When once a man hath cast off the world wholly he can then put on himself completely the manner of the life of Christ, for until he hath cast off from himself the polluted garment, and hath cleansed himself by means of tears of repentance from the blemishes of evil things, he cannot array himself in the purple of the knowledge of Christ. The man who is befouled either with thoughts or deeds of iniquity is first of all bound to heal his sores, and to rub away the blemishes of his soul and body, and then he may come to the feast chamber of divine mysteries, arrayed in the spiritual garments of the feast. And for this reason it is especially meet that every one who becometh a disciple of Christ should, from his earliest age, lay the foundation of his instruction in such a way that all his [p. 19] subsequent growth may receive goodly habits, and that the world may not exhaust the power of his soul and body, after which he may draw nigh to this service like an old and worn out vessel; but, according to what is said by our Lord,16 "Let us put new wine into new bottles, and both will be preserved". And thus in the beginning of our youth, when as yet our foundation is new, and while our strength is yet in us, and our |17 freshness hath not been made old by sin, let us put within ourselves the new wine of the doctrine of Christ, that we may be able to endure the fervour of the love of the doctrine of Christ, so that while we preserve it we may ourselves be preserved through it from all evil things, more especially when the power of our soul hath not been violated and carried off by the work of the service of profane things.
Whosoever then would begin this course of life in his youth, it is meet for him to be under the care of masters and to be obedient to their words without judging their shortcomings. And those teachers also should put themselves in the position of foster-parents to whom the bringing up of the children of the heavenly king, whose father is a king, and whose brother is a king, and whose mother is a queen, hath been delivered, And as those who educate the children of a king of [this] world shew endless care for their growth and progress, and watchfulness and zealousness to please their parents in them and the children also when they arrive at the honour of royalty, even so also should the master of disciples consider that he is educating the children of a king, and he should be watchful and take heed to their custody and to their growth and progress.
[p. 20] It is meet also that we should be like unto physicians towards ourselves and towards each other. For there is no physician who, being smitten with pain in his own body, will not exercise care concerning it before [he attendeth] to the healing of the sicknesses of others; if however, other people fall sick, the law of the art of healing requireth him to run to heal them. And like physicians it is meet that we should |18 know first of all what are the causes of the pains and then should apply medicines, so that we may not be unto the sick man a medicine which increaseth the sickness. For we have received soul and body by the grace of God in the construction of our created form, and it is required from us that we should take care of both. Now as concerning sicknesses and bodily sufferings, that same bodily nature maketh demands from us concerning meat, and drink, and clothing, for those natural needs compel us to take thought for the body, and we are not able to neglect it, even if we wish to do so, for the force of its feelings draweth us to heal it, and the demands [made] by its needs [draw us] to supply the things which it requireth. And concerning the healing of our soul, the command of the word of God urgeth us to heal its sicknesses, and to cure its sufferings, and to satisfy its hunger with the food of doctrine, and to give it to drink of the knowledge of God, and to clothe it with the dress of belief, and to shoe it with the preparation of hope, and to rear it in goodly habits, and in the perfection of all good things, and in the obedience which is ready [p. 21] for the work of the commandments of God, so that, our secret parts being holy and our visible parts being pure, we may become vessels prepared for the Spirit of God, so that He may dwell in us purely and holily, we having cured the diseases which smite us by knowledge and wisdom, and having healed in our souls the wounds of sin.
Now there is no single sickness of the lusts for which healing medicine is not given to us by the word of God. For like as medicines are mixed and prepared by the physicians for bodily sicknesses, even so |19 are medicines made ready and prepared by the Spirit of God for the sufferings of sin, so that whosoever perceiveth his sickness may find medicine by his side, and may at once bring help nigh to himself; and every disease, as it appeareth in most cases, can be healed by something which is opposite [in nature], in order that the contrariety of the medicine may combat the injurious effect of the disease. The sicknesses which arise through cold are healed by roots (or drugs) having astringent properties, and those which arise through heat are helped to decrease by things of a cooling nature. Thus also is it with those which arise from dampness, for dryness cureth [them], and to heal those which arise from moisture medicines which dry up are given.
From this similitude then, take an example, O understanding man, who desirest to heal the sicknesses of the soul, and do to thy soul what the art of healing doeth to thy body; for this work of things which are manifest is set before our eyes that it may be a demonstration of doctrine for the things which are hidden. And in the same way in which the body is healed let us heal the soul [p. 22] from the sicknesses of evil things, and let us make ready the medicine which is the antidote against every passion of sin» Against doubt, faith; against error, truth; against suspicion, certain assurance; against lying, integrity; against craft, simplicity; against cunning, uprightness; against wiliness, sincerity; against hardness, gentleness; against asperity, graciousness; against the lust of the body, the lust of the Spirit; against enjoyment, suffering; against joy of this world, joy of Christ; against profane songs, psalms of the Spirit; against lewdness, groanings and tears; against |20 prodigality in eating and drinking, fasting; against drinking unto drunkenness, the parching thirst of prudence; against the rest of pleasure, labour; against enjoyment, tribulation; against fleshly pleasure, pleasure of the thoughts which rejoice in the Spirit; against speech, silent meditation; against external conversations, silence; against slackness, strenuousness; against inactivity, activity; against negligence of the thoughts, keenness of understanding; against weariness, endurance; against cruelty, loving-kindness; against wickedness of the mind, piety of the soul; against haughtiness, humility; against boasting, contempt; against the love of honour, subjection; against praise, contumely; [p. 23] against riches, poverty; against possession, want; against enmity, peace; against hatred, love; against anger, conciliation; against wrath, propitiation; against envy, love; against evil jealousy, the love of mankind; against cursing, blessing; against smiting upon the cheek, the turning of the other cheek to him that smiteth us; against trouble, joy; against suspicion of ourselves, confident hope towards God; against the passions of the body, the passions of the spirit; against the sight of the body, the sight of the spirit; against ornament in dress, the want of attire; against luxury, asceticism; against fatness, emaciation; against the mind which meditateth upon meats, the mind which contemplateth heavenly things; against the sight of everything which is visible, the remembrance of everything which is invisible; against the world which is present, the quest of the world which is to come; against the love of parents of the body, the love of parents of the spirit; against the bond of relationship which is in the human race, the bond of our understanding in our heavenly kinship; against a city and a |21 house on earth, the dwelling of Jerusalem which is above.
All these things then, and others which are like unto them, are healed by what is opposite in nature to them, and are made whole by [their] antidotes; and it is meet that whosoever lusteth after spiritual things should deny [himself] corporeal things. For until one lust is dead in us another cannot live within us, that is, until the lust of the body is dead the lust of the spirit cannot live in our thoughts; for the death of one of them is that which maketh its fellow come to life. When the body [p. 24] with all its lusts liveth in us the soul with all its lusts is dead, but when the soul is associated with the life which is in the spirit, all its members----which are its thoughts----live with it. Then riseth man from the dead, and liveth in the new life of the new world. Until we have cast off from us the old man we cannot put on the new man of the spirit; and even though, by grace, we may put him on yet we do not perceive him.
Now all these sicknesses which we have enumerated can be healed by these medicines, and it belongeth therefore to the man that is sick to know his sickness, and to be a physician unto himself, and for each of these sicknesses which we have enumerated let him apply the medicine which is its antidote. For behold, by the side of the sickness a drug for healing is laid, and near the blain is the medicine which will cure it. If thou wouldst seek to heal thy sicknesses, behold the medicines for their cure are by their side; but [first] understand thy diseases and acquire the knowledge of the drugs which have the power to heal them. And from the slight indication which I have described for thee |22 thou must understand that [all] the rest belongeth to thine own care; for instruction doth not teach thee everything lest thou become sleepy and useless. Now if these things which have been or which are about to be written are thought by thee to be more difficult than thy strength [is able to bear], cry unto God for help, and from Him thou shalt obtain grace which will assist thee in the war in which thou standest.
We will then draw nigh, by the help of God, and in few [p. 25] words we will write concerning each of these passions so far as power [lieth] in us----that is according as grace shall sustain [us]----for our own benefit and for the profit of others. And we will set these matters in order, one after the other, and we will show where it is meet that the disciple should begin, and how he should advance and ascend all the grades of the Christian life and conduct, until he arriveth at the topmost step of love, from whence he shall ascend to the grade of perfection. Then will the spiritual land of the joy of Christ receive him, and when he hath stood upon it he will be free from passions, and will be delivered from lusts, and he will have subdued all his enemies under his feet, and that man will speak with boldness the word of the Apostle, saying, "Yet I live; [and yet] no longer I, but Christ liveth in me":17 to Whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Here endeth the First Discourse which is the Prologue of the volume. |23
[Footnotes renumbered and placed at the end. Page numbers in square brackets refer to the pages of volume.1, the Syriac text: page numbers in the translation are highlighted in red as normal]
1. 1 Compare 2 Corinthians iii. 18; Philippians iii. 21.
2. 2 )tbcwY
3. 1 St. Matthew vii. 24-27.
4. 2 "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves". St. James i. 22.
5. 3 Romans ii. 13-15.
6. 1 Psalm 1. 16, 17.
7. 1 Isaiah lviii. 1.
8. 2 Isaiah xl. 6.
9. 1 St. Luke xiv. 29.
10. 2 i Corinthians iii. 11.
11. 1 i Corinthians iii. 13.
12. 2 St. Matthew iii. 12; St. Luke iii. 17.
13. 1 Literally "vessels."
14. 1 Syr. [Syriac]. There is no example of the use of this word in Payne Smith's Thesaurus.
15. 1 )t(rw$ = to_ para&ptwma, Romans v. 15.
16. 1 St. Matthew ix. 17.
17. 1 Galatians ii. 20.
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, Syriac using SPEdessa font, free from here.
|Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts