Monday, 28 March 2011

On Prudence

 O Lord, make me understand. Teach me from the inside so that I might glorify you. Make me to know the way I should go. In a word, let me be prudent. I've heard it said, O Lord, that prudence is the chiefest of virtues. It was the hedonist Epicurus who said this. Having understood, I think that this is true and excellent. For to be prudent is to do what one ought, and one ought only to do that which is right.

Therefore, my God, I said to you that it seems true to me that prudence is the chiefest of all virtues. If anyone does what is right they are prudent, and to do right is to observe your holy law in all things. But who has been prudent since Adam, Lord? Where is the proof of what I am giving assent to? Can I give assent to that which does not exist? As the psalmist says, O Lord," There is none who does good; no not one. They have all gone astray." Yet I do give assent, emphatically, that such a one as who is perfectly prudent pleases you, because you are pleased with prudence itself, and prudence is the very thing you require.

But how can I give assent with no evidences? Truly, there is one who is, was, and will be prudent, even Christ. Him I can point to, as my evidence. But am I the only one, along with those born after Him, who can say that He is my evidence? This cannot be so, because we are equals in that we are in the present, whenever we are. For we, Lord, are temporally conditioned, though you are not, for you are eternal.

Again, Lord, teach me as only you can, from the inside. Educate my reason, and enlighten my soul; do not let me err with vain thoughts. I give assent, Lord, that all that really is, is now. No man can create the future, he cannot through his own strength create a moment. He cannot travel into the past, either, but now is all that really is. Yet, for you, O Lord, who are timeless, all these moments are static before you in your eternal realm. You are experiencing them, and completely aware. You are in all time, yet you are not temporally conditioned; neither can it be said that you are "here" or "there."

It cannot be that I am the only one, along with the children born after your Son's time on earth, who can produce an evidence that you are please with the prudent man. For, in truth we produce nothing, because that time is past and 'now' is what is. Inform my faith; teach my faith understanding, my God. Those who are at rest in the countries of the dead and were so before the coming of your messiah, were they without reason to anticipate the prudent man? Surely not, because they could conceive of something more prudent than themselves in their minds, though they and their children had not seen what they had conceived. Therefore, it must have been through anticipation that they were able to know a perfectly prudent man is perfectly pleasing to you.

For us it is the same, then, because having not seen, we yet believe. However, not through anticipation do we do this, but through memory or what has been told to us about the Son. Further, Lord, we are also aware of your pleasure, because of the accidents of this prudent man. We have many evidences of your satisfaction around us in all that has been established through your prudent Son. These I must point to, these are my evidence, then which inform my intellect, the very things my reason givens assent to.

To do good and to be good, O Lord, these are to be prudent. Yet, your prudent one says," Why call ye me good? There is none good save one, the Father in heaven." Where then are your suppliants? We must know, then, that you alone are truly prudent, for you are Good, Almighty Father. To be prudent, then is to be like you and to be like you is to be good and do good. Prudence, then, seems to me Lord the source of all other virtues which are pleasing to you, so far as it pertains to us men. Therefore, you have charged us to imitate your Son, as reason would tell it. So small a saying," Be prudent." yet so heavy.

This is a hard saying, heavy to bear, O Lord. When I think on it I am crushed, for I know that I am not prudent, nor can I become prudent through any strength of my own. Even now, if I were to turn from every evil forever and sin no more, the past is behind me, ever real, in which I have already sinned. No one could say of me," He was a prudent man." Only they could perhaps then say of me," He became a prudent man." But if I became prudent then it is evident that there was a time when I was not. Here again, the words of your prudent one are true, that there is none who is prudent except for you, O God.

It is a heavy burden to think that, that which you desire is prudence. But men think arrogantly, they attempt to look at life the way you do and forget their place. They look at all the burdens at once, as if they were you, observing moments in the past, well aware of present burdens, and anticipating a host of other burdens. The wise man listens to your prudent one who said," Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry for itself. Today has enough trouble of its own." Therefore, I will try here to be prudent and listen to your prudent one. If I look at each 'now' I may know, with your help, what is prudent for each situation. If I stop anticipating things I cannot know by releasing myself from the anticipations produced by past experiences, I will find rest in you, O Lord, and find the strength to be prudent. Therefore, Lord, take away my guilt and the condemnation of sin. This is necessary if I am to be at peace with you, if I am to enter into your rest, and tend to present things which make up the past, and which were once the future.

If I understand this, Lord, your burden becomes light. If I obey the words of your prudent one, then I have an easy yoke. Yes, here again, your words are true. But if this is true, then it is also true that you make us anew. For if each moment is all that is, then now, Lord, in You, means that I am a new man. You make your people replete with opportunities to be prudent. In this we become 'like' you.

But only teach me a little further, Lord and I will strive to follow. If this be the case, then it might be truly said of your new creations, they are prudent, because they cease from sin, and gave to you what you require. And only, I see here again that your words are in accord with each other, because it is written," But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.(Romans 5:20)" Because even if we are not prudent, and remain faithful, yet we are still prudent. For it is a prudent thing, to have faith, to seek forgiveness and lay hold of your Christ, for whom it is written,"... he remitted our transgressions." so that we might become prudent indeed.

Yes, Lord, I give assent that to be good and do good is to be prudent, and that to be prudent is to do what one ought. Therefore, let your Holy Spirit speak clearly to me and teach me what I ought to do; place in me a new heart, yes, perfect my conscience, O Lord. Write your laws, your statutes, and your edicts upon my heart. And strengthen me to be prudent in every 'now' through doing, in abstaining, and thinking. Yes, Lord make me prudent in word and deed, so that I may be a true imitator of your prudent one.

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~

Friday, 4 March 2011

'The True Adornment of Woman' -St. John Chrysostom-

Here is a timeless homily of St. John Chrysostom's (circa 390 A.D.) to consider in contrast with the highly sexual modern fashions of today:

"Do you wish to adorn your face? Do not do so with gems but with piety and modesty; thus adorned, a man will find your appearance more pleasing to behold. For that other kind of adornment generally arouses suspicions which give rise to jealousy, enmity, strife, and quarrels. For there is nothing more disgusting than a suspiciously beautiful face.

But the adornment which comes from almsgiving and modesty drives out all wicked suspicion and draws your husband to you with greater strength than any chain. For natural beauty does not make a face become beautiful as much as does the disposition of him who beholds it, and nothing is more likely to produce this disposition than modesty and piety. Hence even if a woman be beautiful but her husband hates her, she will appear to him as the ugliest of women; if a woman does not happen to be comely but she pleases her husband, he will find her the fairest of women. Judgments are made not in the light of the nature of what is seen but in the light of the disposition of those who see it.

Adorn your face, therefore, with modesty, piety, almsgiving, benevolence, love, kindliness towards your husband, reasonableness, mildness, and forbearance. These are the pigments of virtue; by there you draw not men but angels as your lovers; for these you have God Himself to praise you. When God shall approve of you, He will win over your husband to you in every way; for if wisdom illumines the face of a man, much more does virtue make the face of a woman shine forth.

If you consider that virtue is a great adornment to your beauty, tell me, what benefit will come to you from pearls on that day? But what need is there to speak of that day, when it is possible to prove all these to speak of that day, when it is possible to prove all thee points with arguments from the present life? Surely, when those who are held to have insulted the emperor are dragged into court and are in danger of their lives, then their mothers and wives put off their necklaces, their gold and pearls, all their adornment and gold-embroidered robes; they put on a simple, inexpensive garment, sprinkle themselves with ashes, roll in the dust before the doors of the courtroom, and in this way try to move their judges.

But if golden ornaments, pearls, and embroidered robes could treacherously betray you in the courts of this world, whereas mildness, gentleness, ashes, tears, cheap garments are more calculated to win the judge over to your side, this would be all the more true in that dread judgment where there can be no bribing. For what word of defense will you be able to speak when the Master shall accuse you in the matter of these pearls, and when He shall lead forward the poor who have perished from hunger? This is why Paul said: not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothing. For these could be a trap.

But even if we should enjoy these things day in and day out, we shall be separated from them utterly by death. Virtue, however, does not change or alter; it is completely secure, and it both makes us more secure in this world and goes along with us to the next. Do you wish to possess pearls and never lay aside this wealth? Then strip off your adornment and put it into Christ's hands through the hands of His poor. He will guard all your riches for you against the day when He will raise up your body with great glory. Then He will put on you a better wealth and richer adornment, since your present wealth and adornment are really paltry and ridiculous.

Think, then, who they are whom you wish to please and on whose account you wear this adornment . Is it that the ropemaker and the coppersmith and the man in the market may look at you and marvel (lust)? Are you not ashamed and do you not blush to be showing yourself off to these people and to be doing all this for men whom you do not consider worthy of greeting?"

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~