Years ago, my parish priest, the late Fr. George Mamangakis, recommended that I read St. Basil’s letters. Having come across this letter “To Chilo, his disciple” today, I can see what he probably had in mind. This is simply the old Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers translation, with the Greek and English in parallel columns. The Greek text is taken from PG 32, 348 A360 B.


42.1 Σωτηρίου πράγματος αἴτιος γενήσομαί σοι, ὦ γνήσιε ἀδελφέ, εἰ ἡδέως συμβουλευθείης παρ’ ἡμῶν τὰ πρακτέα, μάλιστα περὶ ὧν ἡμᾶς αὐτὸς παρεκάλεσας συμβουλεῦσαί σοι. Τὸ μὲν γὰρ κατάρξασθαι τοῦ μονήρους βίου πολλοῖς ἴσως τετόλμηται, τὸ δὲ ἀξίως ἐπιτελέσαι ὀλίγοις τάχα που πεπόνηται. Καὶ πάντως οὐκ ἐν προθέσει μόνον τὸ τέλος ὑπάρχει, ἀλλ’ ἐν τῷ τέλει τὸ κέρδος τῶν πεπονημένων. Οὐκοῦν οὐδὲν ὄφελος τοῖς μὴ πρὸς τὸ τοῦ σκοποῦ τέλος ἐπειγομένοις, ἄχρι δὲ τῆς ἀρχῆς μόνης ἱστῶσι τὸν τῶν μοναχῶν βίον· οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ καταγέλαστον καταλιμπάνουσι τὴν ἑαυτῶν πρόθεσιν, ἀνανδρίας καὶ ἀβουλίας παρὰ τῶν ἔξωθεν ἐγκαλούμενοι. Φησὶ γὰρ καὶ ὁ Κύριος περὶ τῶν τοιούτων. «Τίς, βουλόμενος πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι, οὐχὶ πρῶτον καθίσας ψηφίζει τὴν δαπάνην, εἰ ἔχει τὰ πρὸς ἀπαρτισμόν; μή ποτε, θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον καὶ μὴ ἰσχύοντος ἐκτελέσαι, ἄρξωνται ἐμπαίζειν αὐτῷ οἱ παρα πορευόμενοι λέγοντες ὅτι ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος θεμέλιον ἔθηκε καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἐκτελέσαι.» Ἡ οὖν ἀρχὴ ἐχέτω τὴν προκοπὴν προθύμως ἐπὶ τῷ κατορθώματι. Καὶ γὰρ ὁ γενναιότατος ἀθλητὴς Παῦλος, βουλόμενος ἡμᾶς μὴ ἐπαμεριμνεῖν τοῖς προβεβιωμένοις ἀγαθοῖς, ἀλλ’ ὁσημέραι εἰς τὸ πρόσω προκόπτειν, λέγει· «Τῶν ὄπισθεν ἐπιλανθα νόμενος, τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος, κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω ἐπὶ τὸ βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως.» Τοιοῦτος γὰρ ὑπάρχει ὅλος ὁ τῶν ἀνθρώπων βίος, μὴ ἀρκούμενος τοῖς φθάσασιν, ἀλλὰ τρεφόμενος οὐ τοῖς φθάσασι μᾶλλον, ἀλλὰ τοῖς μέλλουσι. Τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖ ἄνθρωπον ὁ χθιζὸς τῆς γαστρὸς κόρος, σήμερον τῆς ἐμφύτου πείνης τὴν οἰκείαν τῆς βρώσεως παραμυθίαν μὴ εὑρισκούσης; Οὕτως οὖν οὐδὲ ψυχῆς κέρδος τοῦ χθεσινοῦ κατορθώματος, τῆς σημερινῆς ἀπολιμπανομένου δικαιοπραγίας. «Οἷον γὰρ εὕρω σε, φησί, τοιοῦτόν σε κρινῶ». 1. If, my true brother, you gladly suffer yourself to be advised by me as to what course of action you should pursue, specially in the points in which you have referred to me for advice, you will owe me your salvation. Many men have had the courage to enter upon the solitary life; but to live it out to the end is a task which perhaps has been achieved by few. The end is not necessarily involved in the intention; yet in the end is the reward of the toil. No advantage, therefore, accrues to men who fail to press on to the end of what they have in view and only adopt the solitary’s life in its inception. Nay, they make their profession ridiculous, and are charged by outsiders with unmanliness and instability of purpose. Of these, moreover, the Lord says, who wishing to build a house sits not down first and counts the cost whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish it, the passers-by begin to mock him saying, this man laid a foundation and was not able to finish. Let the start, then, mean that you heartily advance in virtue. The right noble athlete Paul, wishing us not to rest in easy security on so much of our life as may have been lived well in the past, but, every day to attain further progress, says Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling (Phil 3:13-14). So truly stands the whole of human life, not contented with what has gone before and fed not so much on the past as on the future. For how is a man the better for having his belly filled yesterday, if his natural hunger fails to find its proper satisfaction in food today? In the same way the soul gains nothing by yesterday’s virtue unless it be followed by the right conduct of today. For it is said I shall judge you as I shall find you.
42.2 Οὐκοῦν μάταιος μὲν τοῦ δικαίου ὁ κόπος, ἀνέγκλητος δὲ καὶ τοῦ ἁμαρτωλοῦ ὁ τρόπος, ἐπιγενομένης ἐναλλαγῆς, τῷ μὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ κρείττονος ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον, τῷ δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ χείρονος ἐπὶ τὸ κρεῖττον μεταβληθέντι. Ταῦτα καὶ τοῦ Ἰεζεκιὴλ ὡς ἐκ προσώπου τοῦ Κυρίου δογματίζοντός ἐστιν ἀκοῦσαι. «Ἐὰν γάρ, φησίν, ἐκκλίνας ὁ δίκαιος πλημμελήσῃ, οὐ μὴ μνησθῶ τῶν δικαιοσυνῶν ὧν ἐποίησεν, ἀλλ’ ἐν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἀποθανεῖται.» Τὸ δὲ αὐτό φησι καὶ περὶ τοῦ ἁμαρτωλοῦ· «Ἐὰν ἐπιστρέψας ποιήσῃ δικαιοσύνην, ζωὴν ζήσεται ἐν αὐτῇ.» Ποῦ γὰρ οἱ τοσοῦτοι Μωσῆ τοῦ θεράποντος πόνοι, τῆς ἐν στιγμῇ ἀντιλογίας παραγραψαμένης αὐτοῦ τὴν εἰς τὴν γῆν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας εἴσοδον; Ποῦ δὲ καὶ ἡ τοῦ Γιεζῆ συναναστροφὴ πρὸς τὸν Ἐλισσαῖον, φιλοχρηματίας χάριν λέπραν ἐπισπασαμένου; Τί δὲ καὶ τοῦ πλήθους τῆς σοφίας τῷ Σολομῶντι ὄφελος καὶ ἡ προλαβοῦσα τοιαύτη ἔννοια εἰς Θεόν, ὕστερον ἐκ τῆς γυναικομανίας εἰς εἰδωλολατρείαν αὐτοῦ ἐκπεπτωκότος; Ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ τὸν μακάριον ∆αβὶδ ὁ μετεωρισμὸς ἀφῆκεν ἀνέγκλητον διὰ τὴν εἰς τὴν τοῦ Οὐρίου πλημμέλειαν. Ἤρκει δὲ καὶ ἡ τοῦ Ἰούδα ἀπὸ τοῦ κρείττονος εἰς τὸ χεῖρον μετάπτωσις πρὸς ἀσφάλειαν τοῦ κατὰ Θεὸν πολιτευομένου, ὅς, ἐν τοσούτοις χρόνοις μαθητευθεὶς τῷ Χριστῷ, ὕστερον μικρῷ λήμματι τὸν ∆ιδάσκαλον ἀπεμπολήσας ἑαυτῷ ἀγχόνην ἐπραγματεύσατο. Τοῦτο οὖν γνωστόν σοι ἔστω, ἀδελφέ, ὅτι οὐχ ὁ καλῶς ἀρχόμενος, οὗτος τέλειος, ἀλλ’ ὁ καλῶς ἀποτιθέμενος οὗτος, δόκιμος παρὰ Θεῷ. «Μὴ οὖν δῷς ὕπνον τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς, ἀδελφέ, μηδὲ νυσταγμὸν σοῖς βλεφάροις», ἵνα «σωθῇς ὥσπερ δορκὰς ἐκ βρόχων καὶ ὥσπερ ὄρνεον ἐκ παγίδος.» Βλέπε γὰρ ὅτι ἐν μέσῳ παγίδων διαβαίνεις καὶ ἐπάνω τείχους ὑψηλοῦ περιπατεῖς ὅθεν οὐκ ἀκίνδυνον τῷ καταπεσόντι τὸ πτῶμα. Μὴ οὖν εὐθέως εἰς ἀκρότητα ἀσκήσεως ἐκτείνῃς σεαυτόν· μάλιστα μηδὲ θαρρήσῃς σεαυτῷ, ἵνα μὴ ἐξ ἀπειρίας ἀφ’ ὕψους τῆς ἀσκήσεως πέσῃς. Κρεῖσσον γὰρ ἡ κατ’ ὀλίγον προκοπή. Κατὰ μικρὸν οὖν κλέπτε τὰς ἡδονὰς τοῦ βίου ἐξαφανίζων σεαυτοῦ πᾶσαν συνήθειαν, μήποτε ἀθρόως πάσας ὁμοῦ ἐρεθίσας τὰς ἡδονὰς ὄχλον πειρασμῶν σεαυτῷ ἐπαγάγῃς. Ἡνίκα δ’ ἂν τοῦ ἑνὸς πάθους τῆς ἡδονῆς κατὰ κράτος περιγένῃ, πρὸς τὴν ἑτέραν ἡδονὴν παράταξαι καὶ οὕτω πασῶν τῶν ἡδονῶν εὐκαίρως περιγενήσῃ. Ἡδονῆς γὰρ ὄνομα μὲν ἕν, πράγματα δὲ διάφορα. Τοίνυν, ἀδελφέ, ἔσο πρῶτον μὲν ὑπομονητικὸς πρὸς πάντα πειρασμόν. Πειρασμοῖς δὲ ποταποῖς δοκιμάζεται ὁ πιστός, ζημίαις κοσμικαῖς, ἐγκλήμασι, καταψεύσμασιν, ἀπειθείαις, καταλαλιαῖς, διωγμοῖς; Εἰς ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα δοκιμάζεται ὁ πιστός. Ἔπειτα δὲ καὶ ἡσύχιος ἔσο, μὴ προπετὴς ἐν λόγῳ, μὴ ἐριστικός, μὴ φιλόνεικος, μὴ κενόδοξος, μὴ ἐξηγητικός, ἀλλὰ φιλόπιστος· μὴ ἐν λόγῳ πολύς, ἕτοιμος δὲ ἴσθι ἀεί, μὴ πρὸς διδασκαλίαν. ἀλλὰ πρὸς μάθησιν. Μὴ περιεργάζου βίους κοσμικοὺς ὅθεν οὐδέν σοι προσγίνεται ὄφελος. Φησὶ γάρ· «Ὅπως ἂν μὴ λαλήσῃ τὸ στόμα μου τὰ ἔργα τῶν ἀνθρώπων». Ὁ γὰρ ἡδέως λαλῶν τὰ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν ἑτοίμως καθ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἐξυπνίζει τὰς ἡδονάς. Μᾶλλον δὲ πολυπραγμόνει τὸν τῶν δικαίων βίον· οὕτω γὰρ ἂν εὑρή σεις ἑαυτῷ ὄφελος. Μὴ ἔσο φιλενδείκτης περιάγων τὰς κώμας ἢ τὰς οἰκίας, φεῦγε δὲ ταύτας ὡς ψυχῶν παγίδας. Εἰ δέ τις διὰ πολλὴν εὐλάβειαν προτρέπεταί σε εἰς τὸν ἑαυτοῦ οἶκον πολλῶν προφάσεων ἕνεκα, μανθανέτω ὁ τοιοῦτος ἀκολουθεῖν τῇ πίστει τοῦ ἑκατοντάρχου ὅς, τοῦ Ἰησοῦ θεραπείας χάριν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐπειγομένου, παρῃτή σατο λέγων· «Κύριε, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς ἵνα μου ὑπὸ τὴν στέγην εἰσέλθῃς, ἀλλὰ μόνον εἰπὲ λόγον καὶ ἰαθήσεται ὁ παῖς μου.» Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ εἰπόντος αὐτῷ· «Ὕπαγε, ὡς ἐπίστευσας γενηθήτω σοι», ἰάθη ὁ παῖς ἀπὸ τῆς ὥρας ἐκείνης. Τοῦτο οὖν γνωστόν σοι ἔστω, ἀδελφέ, ὅτι οὐχ ἡ τοῦ Χριστοῦ παρουσία, ἀλλ’ ἡ πίστις τοῦ αἰτοῦντος ἠλευθέρωσε τὸν κάμνοντα. Οὕτω καὶ νῦν, σοῦ εὐχομένου ἐν ᾧ ᾖς τόπῳ καὶ τοῦ κάμνοντος πιστεύοντος ὅτι ταῖς σαῖς εὐχαῖς βοηθηθήσεται, ἀποβήσεται αὐτῷ πάντα καταθυμίως. 2. Vain then is the labour of the righteous man, and free from blame is the way of the sinner, if a change befall, and the former turn from the better to the worse, and the latter from the worse to the better. So we hear from Ezekiel teaching as it were in the name of the Lord, when he says, if the righteous turns away and commits iniquity, I will not remember the righteousness which he committed before; in his sin he shall die, and so too about the sinner; if he turn away from his wickedness, and do that which is right, he shall live. Where were all the labours of God’s servant Moses, when the gainsaying of one moment shut him out from entering into the promised land? What became of the companionship of Gehazi with Elissæus, when he brought leprosy on himself by his covetousness? What availed all Solomon’s vast wisdom, and his previous regard for God, when afterwards from his mad love of women he fell into idolatry? Not even the blessed David was blameless, when his thoughts went astray and he sinned against the wife of Uriah. One example were surely enough for keeping safe one who is living a godly life, the fall from the better to the worse of Judas, who, after being so long Christ’s disciple, for a mean gain sold his Master and got a halter for himself. Learn then, brother, that it is not he who begins well who is perfect. It is he who ends well who is approved in God’s sight. Give then no sleep to your eyes or slumber to your eyelids that you may be delivered as a roe from the net and a bird from the snare. For, behold, you are passing through the midst of snares; you are treading on the top of a high wall whence a fall is perilous to the faller; wherefore do not straightway attempt extreme discipline; above all things beware of confidence in yourself, lest you fall from a height of discipline through want of training. It is better to advance a little at a time. Withdraw then by degrees from the pleasures of life, gradually destroying all your wonted habits, lest you bring on yourself a crowd of temptations by irritating all your passions at once. When you have mastered one passion, then begin to wage war against another, and in this manner you will in good time get the better of all. Indulgence, so far as the name goes, is one, but its practical workings are diverse. First then, brother, meet every temptation with patient endurance. And by what various temptations the faithful man is proved; by worldly loss, by accusations, by lies, by opposition, by calumny, by persecution! These and the like are the tests of the faithful. Further, be quiet, not rash in speech, not quarrelsome, not disputatious, not covetous of vain glory, not more anxious to get than to give knowledge, not a man of many words, but always more ready to learn than to teach. Do not trouble yourself about worldly life; from it no good can come to you. It is said, That my mouth speak not the works of men. The man who is fond of talking about sinners’ doings, soon rouses the desire for self indulgence; much better busy yourself about the lives of good men for so you will get some profit for yourself. Do not be anxious to go travelling about from village to village and house to house; rather avoid them as traps for souls. If any one, for true pity’s sake, invite you with many pleas to enter his house, let him be told to follow the faith of the centurion, who, when Jesus was hastening to him to perform an act of healing, besought him not to do so in the words, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but speak the word only and my servant shall be healed” (Mt 8:8), and when Jesus had said to him “Go your way; as you have believed, so be it done unto you” (Mt 8:13), his servant was healed from that hour. Learn then, brother, that it was the faith of the suppliant, not the presence of Christ, which delivered the sick man. So too now, if you pray, in whatever place you be, and the sick man believes that he will be aided by your prayers, all will fall out as he desires.
42.3 Πλέον δὲ τοῦ Κυρίου τοὺς οἰκείους σου μὴ ἀγαπήσεις. «Ὁ γὰρ ἀγαπῶν, φησί, πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστι μου ἄξιος.» Τί δὲ βούλεται ἡ τοῦ Κυρίου ἐντολή; «Εἴ τις, φησίν, οὐκ αἴρει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ μοι, οὐ δύναταί μου εἶναι μαθητής.» Εἰ συναπέθανες τῷ Χριστῷ ἀπὸ τῶν συγγενῶν σου τῶν κατὰ σάρκα τί πάλιν ἐν αὐτοῖς ἀναστρέφεσθαι θέλεις; Εἰ δὲ ἃ κατέλυ σας διὰ Χριστὸν πάλιν ταῦτα οἰκοδομεῖς διὰ τοὺς συγγε νεῖς σου, παραβάτην σεαυτὸν καθιστᾷς. Μὴ οὖν διὰ χρέος τῶν συγγενῶν σου ἀναχωρήσῃς τοῦ τόπου σου· ἀναχωρῶν γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ τόπου σου ἴσως ἀναχωρήσεις ἐκ τοῦ τρόπου σου. Μὴ ἔσο ὀχλοχαρής, μὴ φιλόχωρος, μὴ φιλοπολίτης, ἀλλὰ φιλέρημος, ἐφ’ ἑαυτῷ μένων ἀεὶ ἀμετεωρίστως τὴν εὐχὴν καὶ τὴν ψαλμῳδίαν ἔργον ἡγούμενος. Μηδὲ τῶν ἀναγνωσμάτων κατολιγωρήσῃς, μάλιστα τῆς νέας ∆ιαθήκης, διὰ τὸ ἐκ τῆς παλαιᾶς ∆ιαθήκης πολλάκις βλάβην ἐγγίνεσθαι, καὶ οὐχ ὅτι ἐγράφη βλαβερά, ἀλλ’ ὅτι ἡ τῶν βλαπτομένων διάνοια ἀσθενής. Πᾶς γὰρ ἄρτος τρόφιμος, ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἀσθενοῦσιν ἐπιβλαβής. Οὕτως οὖν «πᾶσα Γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος», καὶ οὐδὲν κοινὸν δι’ αὐτῆς, εἰ μὴ τῷ λογιζομένῳ κοινὸν εἶναι ἐκείνῳ κοινόν. «Πάντα δὲ δοκίμαζε, τὸ καλὸν κάτεχε, ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχου.» «Πάντα γὰρ ἔξεστιν, ἀλλ’ οὐ πάντα συμφέρει.» Ἔσο οὖν τοῖς συντυγχάνουσί σοι ἐν πᾶσιν ἀπρόσκοπος, προσχαρής, φιλάδελφος, ἡδύς, ταπεινόφρων, μὴ ἐκπίπτων τοῦ σκοποῦ τῆς φιλοξενίας διὰ βρωμάτων πολυτελείας, ἀρκούμενος δὲ τοῖς παροῦσι, τῆς καθημερινῆς χρείας τοῦ μονήρους βίου μηδὲν πλέον ἀπό τινος λάβῃς· καὶ μάλιστα φύγε τὸν χρυσὸν ὡς ψυχῆς ἐπίβουλον καὶ ἁμαρτίας πατέρα, ὑπουργὸν δὲ τοῦ διαβόλου. Μὴ προφάσει τῆς εἰς τοὺς πένητας διακονίας σεαυτὸν ὑπό δικον φιλοχρηματίας καταστήσῃς. Εἰ δέ τις πτωχῶν ἕνεκα κομίσει σοι χρήματα, γνῶς δέ τινας λειπομένους, αὐτῷ ἐκείνῳ ᾧ ὑπάρχει τὰ χρήματα ἀποκομίσαι τοῖς ὑστε ρουμένοις ἀδελφοῖς συμβούλευσον, μήποτε μολύνῃ σου τὴν συνείδησιν ἡ τῶν χρημάτων ὑποδοχή. 3. You will not love your kinsfolk more than the Lord. He that loves, He says, father, or mother, or brother, more than me, is not worthy of me. What is the meaning of the Lord’s commandment? He that takes not up his cross and follows after me, cannot be my disciple? If, together with Christ, you died to your kinsfolk according to the flesh, why do you wish to live with them again? If for your kinsfolk’s sake you are building up again what you destroyed for Christ’s sake, you make yourself a transgressor. Do not then for your kinsfolk’s sake abandon your place: if you abandon your place, perhaps you will abandon your mode of life. Love not the crowd, nor the country, nor the town; love the desert, ever abiding by yourself with no wandering mind, regarding prayer and praise as your life’s work. Never neglect reading, especially of the New Testament, because very frequently mischief comes of reading the Old; not because what is written is harmful, but because the minds of the injured are weak. All bread is nutritious, but it may be injurious to the sick. Just so all Scripture is God inspired and profitable, and there is nothing in it unclean: only to him who thinks it is unclean, to him it is unclean. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. “All things are lawful but all things are not expedient” (1 Cor 6:12). Among all, with whom you come in contact, be in all things a giver of no offense, cheerful, loving as a brother (1 Peter 3:8), pleasant, humble-minded, never missing the mark of hospitality through extravagance of meats, but always content with what is at hand. Take no more from any one than the daily necessaries of the solitary life. Above all things shun gold as the soul’s foe, the father of sin and the agent of the devil. Do not expose yourself to the charge of covetousness on the pretence of ministering to the poor; but, if any one brings you money for the poor and you know of any who are in need, advise the owner himself to convey it to his needy brothers, lest haply your conscience may be defiled by the acceptance of money.
42.4 Τὰς ἡδονὰς φεῦγε, τὴν ἐγκράτειαν δίωκε, καὶ τὸ μὲν σῶμα τοῖς πόνοις ἄσκει, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν τοῖς πειρασμοῖς ἔθιζε. Τὴν σώματος καὶ ψυχῆς ἀνάλυσιν ἀπαλλαγὴν παντὸς κακοῦ τιθέμενος ἐκδέχου τῶν αἰωνίων ἀγαθῶν τὴν ἀπόλαυσιν ἧς πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι μέτοχοι γεγόνασι. Σὺ δὲ ἀδιαλείπτως ζυγοστατῶν ἀντιπαρατίθεσο τῇ διαβολικῇ ἐννοίᾳ τὸν εὐσεβῆ λογισμόν, ὥσπερ ἐπὶ τρυτάνης τῇ ῥοπῇ τῆς πλάστιγγος τούτῳ παραχωρῶν. Καὶ μάλιστα ὅταν ἐπαναστᾶσα ἡ πονηρὰ ἔννοια λέγῃ· «Τί σοι τὸ ὄφελος τῆς ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ διαγωγῆς; Τί σοι τὸ κέρδος τῆς ἀναχωρή σεως τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων συνηθείας; Ἢ οὐκ ἔγνως τοὺς παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τεταγμένους ἐπισκόπους τῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ Ἐκκλησιῶν τοῖς ἀνδράσι συνήθως συνδιαζῶντας καὶ τὰς πνευματικὰς ἀδιαλείπτως ἐπιτελοῦντας πανηγύρεις ἐν αἷς μάλιστά που τοῖς παραγενομένοις γίνεται ὄφελος; Ἐκεῖ γὰρ ἀποκαλύψεις παροιμιακῶν αἰνιγμάτων, λύσεις ἀποστολικῶν διδαγμάτων, εὐαγγελικῶν νοημάτων ἔκθεσις, θεολογίας ἀκρόασις, ἀδελφῶν πνευματικῶν συντυχίαι μεγάλην τοῖς ἐντυγχάνουσιν ἐκ τῆς θέας τοῦ προσώπου τὴν ὠφέλειαν παρεχόντων. Σὺ δὲ τοσούτων ἀγαθῶν ἀλλό τριον σεαυτὸν καταστήσας κάθησαι ἐνθάδε ἐξηγριωμένος ἴσως τοῖς θηρσίν. Ὁρᾷς γὰρ ἐνταῦθα ἠρεμίαν πολλήν, ἀπανθρωπίαν οὐκ ὀλίγην, ἀπορίαν διδασκαλίας, ἀδελφῶν ἀλλοτρίωσιν καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα περὶ τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀργίαν ἔχον πολλήν.» Ὅταν οὖν τοιαύταις καὶ τοσαύταις εὐλογοφανέσι προφάσεσιν ἐπαναστᾶσα ἡ πονηρὰ ἔννοια καταρρῆξαί σε θέλῃ, ἀντιπαράθες αὐτῇ διὰ τοῦ εὐσεβοῦς λογισμοῦ τὴν πεῖραν τοῦ πράγματος λέγων· «Ἐπειδὴ σὺ λέγεις μοι καλὰ τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ εἶναι, διὰ τοῦτο ἐγὼ ἐνταῦθα μετῴκησα ἀνάξιον ἐμαυτὸν κρίνας τῶν τοῦ κόσμου καλῶν. Παραμέμικται γὰρ τοῖς τοῦ κόσμου καλοῖς τὰ κακά, καὶ μᾶλλον ὑπεραίρει τὰ κακά. Παραγενόμενος γάρ ποτε ἐν ταῖς πνευματικαῖς πανηγύρεσιν ἑνὶ μὲν ἀδελφῷ μόλις ποτὲ περιέτυχον, τὸ μὲν δοκεῖν, φοβουμένῳ τὸν Κύριον, κρατουμένῳ δὲ ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου, καὶ ἤκουσα παρ’ αὐτοῦ λόγους κομψοὺς καὶ μύθους πεπλασμένους εἰς ἀπάτην τῶν ἐντυγχανόντων. Πολλοῖς δὲ μετ’ αὐτὸν συνέτυχον κλέπταις, ἅρπαξι, τυράννοις. Εἶδον μεθυόντων σχῆμα ἄσχημον, τὰ αἵματα τῶν καταπονουμένων. Εἶδον δὲ καὶ κάλλος γυναικῶν βασανίζον μου τὴν σωφροσύνην. Καὶ τὸ μὲν τῆς πορνείας ἔργον διέφυγον, τὴν δὲ ἐμαυτοῦ παρθενίαν ἐμόλυνα κατὰ διάνοιαν καρδίας. Καὶ πολλῶν μὲν ἀκήκοα λόγων ψυχωφελῶν· πλὴν παρ’ οὐδενὶ τῶν διδασκά λων εὗρον ἀξίαν τῶν λόγων τὴν ἀρετήν. Μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο πάλιν μυρίων ἤκουσα τραγῳδημάτων μέλεσι τεθρυμμένοις ἐνδεδυμένων. Πάλιν ἀκήκοα κιθάρας ἡδὺ ἠχούσης, τῶν κρότων τῶν ἁλλομένων, τῆς φωνῆς τῶν γελοιαστῶν, μωρίας πολλῆς καὶ εὐτραπελίας, ὄχλου ἀμυθήτου βοῆς. Εἶδον τὰ δάκρυα τῶν συληθέντων, τὰς ὀδύνας τῶν ἀπαγομένων ὑπὸ τῆς τυραννίδος, τὴν οἰμωγὴν τῶν βασανιζομένων. Καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ οὐκ ἦν πανήγυρις πνευματική, ἀλλὰ θάλασσα ἀνεμιζομένη καὶ ταραττομένη πάντας ὁμοῦ τοῖς αὐτῆς κύμασι καλύψαι σπουδάζουσα. Λέγε μοι, ὦ κακὴ ἔννοια, καὶ ὁ τῆς προσκαίρου ἡδυπαθείας τε καὶ κενοδοξίας δαίμων, τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος τῆς τούτων θεωρίας τε καὶ ἀκροάσεως, μηδενὶ τῶν ἀδικουμένων βοηθῆσαι ἰσχύοντι, μήτε δὲ τοῖς ἀδυνάτοις ἐπαμῦναι, μήτε τοὺς σφαλλομένους διορθώσασθαι συγχωρουμένῳ, τάχα δὲ μέλλοντι καὶ ἐμαυτὸν προσαπολλύειν; Ὥσπερ γὰρ ὀλίγον ὕδωρ καθαρὸν ὑπὸ πολλῆς ζάλης ἀνέμου καὶ κονιορτοῦ ἀφανίζεται, οὕτως ἃ νομίζομεν καλὰ ἐν τῷ βίῳ ποιεῖν ὑπὸ τοῦ πλήθους τῶν κακῶν καλύπτεται. Αἱ μὲν γὰρ τραγῳδίαι ὥσπερ σκόλοπες τοῖς κατὰ τὸν βίον δι’ εὐθυμίας καὶ χαρᾶς ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν ἐμπήσσονται, ἵνα τῆς ψαλμῳδίας ἐπισκοτίσῃ τὸ καθαρόν. Αἱ δὲ οἰμωγαὶ καὶ ὁ ὀδυρμὸς τῶν ἀδικουμένων ἀνθρώπων παρὰ τῶν ὁμοφύλων ἐπάγονται, ἵνα δειχθῇ τῶν πενήτων ἡ ὑπομονή. 4. Shun pleasures; seek after continence; train your body to hard work; accustom your soul to trials. Regarding the dissolution of soul and body as release from every evil, await that enjoyment of everlasting good things in which all the saints have part. Ever, as it were, holding the balance against every suggestion of the devil throw in a holy thought, and, as the scale inclines do thou go with it. Above all when the evil thought starts up and says, What is the good of your passing your life in this place? What do you gain by withdrawing yourself from the society of men? Do you not know that those, who are ordained by God to be bishops of God’s churches, constantly associate with their fellows, and indefatigably attend spiritual gatherings at which those who are present derive very great advantage? There are to be enjoyed explanations of hard sayings, expositions of the teachings of the apostles, interpretations of the thoughts of the gospels, lessons in theology and the intercourse of spiritual brethren, who do great good to all they meet if only by the sight of their faces. You, however, who have decided to be a stranger to all these good things, are sitting here in a wild state like the beasts. You see round you a wide desert with scarcely a fellow creature in it, lack of all instruction, estrangement from your brothers, and your spirit inactive in carrying out the commandments of God. Now, when the evil thought rises against you, with all these ingenious pretexts and wishes to destroy you, oppose to it in pious reflection your own practical experience, and say, You tell me that the things in the world are good; the reason why I came here is because I judged myself unfit for the good things of the world. With the world’s good things are mingled evil things, and the evil things distinctly have the upper hand. Once when I attended the spiritual assemblies I did with difficulty find one brother, who, so far as I could see, feared God, but he was a victim of the devil, and I heard from him amusing stories and tales made up to deceive those whom he met. After him I fell in with many thieves, plunderers, tyrants. I saw disgraceful drunkards; I saw the blood of the oppressed; I saw women’s beauty, which tortured my chastity. From actual fornication I fled, but I defiled my virginity by the thoughts of my heart. I heard many discourses which were good for the soul, but I could not discover in the case of any one of the teachers that his life was worthy of his words. After this, again, I heard a great number of plays, which were made attractive by wanton songs. Then I heard a lyre sweetly played, the applause of tumblers, the talk of clowns, all kinds of jests and follies and all the noises of a crowd. I saw the tears of the robbed, the agony of the victims of tyranny, the shrieks of the tortured. I looked and lo, there was no spiritual assembly, but only a sea, wind-tossed and agitated, and trying to drown every one at once under its waves. Tell me, O evil thought, tell me, dæmon of short lived pleasure and vain glory, what is the good of my seeing and hearing all these things, when I am powerless to succour any of those who are thus wronged; when I am allowed neither to defend the helpless nor correct the fallen; when I am perhaps doomed to destroy myself too. For just as a very little fresh water is blown away by a storm of wind and dust, in like manner the good deeds, that we think we do in this life, are overwhelmed by the multitude of evils. Pieces acted for men in this life are driven through joy and merriment, like stakes into their hearts, so that the brightness of their worship is be-dimmed. But the wails and lamentations of men wronged by their fellows are introduced to make a show of the patience of the poor.
42.5 Τίς οὖν ὠφέλεια ἐμοὶ ἢ δηλονότι τῆς ψυχῆς ἡ βλάβη; ∆ιὰ τοῦτο οὖν ἐγὼ μεταναστεύω ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη ὡς στρουθίον. Ὡς στρουθίον γὰρ ἐρρύσθην ἐκ τῆς παγίδος τῶν θηρευόντων. Καὶ γὰρ ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ ἐρήμῳ διάγω, ὦ κακὴ ἔννοια, ἐν ᾗ ὁ Κύριος διέτριβεν. Ἐνταῦθα ἡ δρῦς ἡ Μαμβρή, ἐνταῦθα ἡ οὐρανοφόρος κλίμαξ καὶ αἱ τῶν ἀγγέλων παρεμβολαὶ αἱ τῷ Ἰακὼβ ὀφθεῖσαι, ἐνταῦθα ἡ ἔρημος ἐν ᾗ ὁ λαὸς ἁγνισθεὶς ἐνομοθετήθη καὶ οὕτως εἰς τὴν γῆν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας εἰσελθὼν εἶδε Θεόν. Ἐνταῦθα τὸ ὄρος τὸ Καρμήλιον ἐν ᾧ Ἠλίας αὐλιζόμενος τῷ Θεῷ εὐηρέστησεν. Ἐνταῦθα τὸ πεδίον ἐν ᾧ ἀναχωρήσας Ἔσδρας πάσας τὰς θεοπνεύστους βίβλους προστάγματι Θεοῦ ἐξηρεύξατο. Ἐνταῦθα ἡ ἔρημος ἐν ᾗ ὁ μακάριος Ἰωάννης ἀκριδοφαγῶν μετάνοιαν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἐκήρυξεν. Ἐνταῦθα τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν εἰς ὃ ὁ Χριστὸς ἀνερχόμενος προσηύχετο ἡμᾶς διδάσκων προσεύχεσθαι. Ἐνταῦθα ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ τῆς ἐρήμου φίλος. Φησὶ γάρ· «Ὅπου εἰσὶ δύο ἢ τρεῖς συνηγμένοι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα, ἐκεῖ εἰμι ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν.» Ἐνταῦθα ἡ στενὴ καὶ τεθλιμμένη ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν. Ἐνταῦθα διδάσκαλοι καὶ προφῆ ται, οἱ ἐν ἐρημίαις πλανώμενοι καὶ ὄρεσι καὶ σπηλαίοις καὶ ταῖς ὀπαῖς τῆς γῆς. Ἐνταῦθα ἀπόστολοι καὶ εὐαγγε λισταὶ καὶ ὁ τῶν μοναχῶν ἐρημοπολίτης βίος. Ταῦτα τοίνυν ἑκουσίως καταδέδεγμαι, ἵνα λάβω ἅπερ τοῖς μάρτυσι τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις πᾶσιν ἁγίοις ἐπήγγελται, ἵνα ἀψευδῶς λέγω· «∆ιὰ τοὺς λόγους τῶν χειλέων σου ἐγὼ ἐφύλαξα ὁδοὺς σκληράς.» Ἔγνων γὰρ τὸν μὲν θεοφιλῆ Ἀβραὰμ τῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ φωνῇ πειθόμενον καὶ εἰς τὴν ἔρημον μετοικοῦντα, καὶ Ἰσαὰκ καταδυναστευόμενον, καὶ Ἰακὼβ τὸν πατριάρχην ξενιτεύοντα, Ἰωσὴφ τὸν σώφρονα διαπι πρασκόμενον, τοὺς τῆς ἐγκρατείας εὑρετὰς τρεῖς παῖδας πυρομαχοῦντας, ∆ανιὴλ δεύτερον εἰς λάκκον λεόντων παραβαλλόμενον, τὸν παρρησιαστὴν Ἱερεμίαν εἰς λάκκον βορβόρου καταδικαζόμενον, Ἡσαίαν τὸν τῶν ἀποκρύφων θεατὴν πριζόμενον, τὸν Ἰσραὴλ αἰχμαλωτιζόμενον, Ἰωάννην τὸν τῆς μοιχείας ἔλεγχον ἀποτεμνόμενον, ἀναιρουμένους τοὺς Χριστοῦ μάρτυρας. Καὶ ἵνα τί μακρολογῶ, ὅπου γε καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ Σωτὴρ ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, ἵνα τῷ ἑαυ τοῦ θανάτῳ ἡμᾶς ζωοποιήσῃ καὶ πάντας ἡμᾶς πρὸς τὴν ὑπομονὴν ἀλείψῃ καὶ ἑλκύσῃ; Πρὸς τοῦτον ἐπείγομαι καὶ πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον. Γνήσιος εὑρε θῆναι ἀγωνίζομαι, ἀνάξιον ἐμαυτὸν κρίνας τῶν τοῦ κόσμου καλῶν. Πλὴν ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐγὼ διὰ τὸν κόσμον, ἀλλ’ ὁ κόσμος δι’ ἐμέ.» Ταῦτα οὖν ἐν ἑαυτῷ ἐπιλογιζόμενος καὶ τελῶν αὐτὰ σπουδαίως κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον σοι, ἀγώνισαι ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀληθείας ἕως θανάτου. Καὶ γὰρ ὁ Χριστὸς ὑπήκοος γέγονε μέχρι θανάτου. Ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁ Ἀπόστολός φησι· «Βλέπετε μήποτε ἔσται ἔν τινι ὑμῶν καρδία πονηρὰ εἰς τὸ ἀποστῆναι ἀπὸ Θεοῦ ζῶντος, ἀλλὰ ἀλλήλους παρακαλεῖτε καὶ εἷς τὸν ἕνα οἰκοδομεῖτε ἄχρις οὗ τὸ σήμερον λέγεται.» Τὸ γὰρ σήμερον σημαίνει ὅλον τὸν χρόνον τῆς ζωῆς ἡμῶν. Οὕτως οὖν πολιτευόμενος, ἀδελφέ, καὶ σεαυτὸν σώσεις καὶ ἡμᾶς εὐφρανεῖς καὶ τὸν Θεὸν δοξάσεις εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. 5. What good then do I get except the loss of my soul? For this reason I migrate to the hills like a bird. I am escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers. I am living, O evil thought, in the desert in which the Lord lived. Here is the oak of Mamre; here is the ladder going up to heaven, and the stronghold of the angels which Jacob saw; here is the wilderness in which the people purified received the law, and so came into the land of promise and saw God. Here is Mount Carmel where Elias sojourned and pleased God. Here is the plain whither Esdras withdrew, and at God’s bidding uttered all the God inspired books. Here is the wilderness in which the blessed John ate locusts and preached repentance to men. Here is the Mount of Olives, whither Christ came and prayed, and taught us to pray. Here is Christ the lover of the wilderness, for He says “Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them. Here is the strait and narrow way which leads unto life (Mt 7:14). Here are the teachers and prophets “wandering in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb 11:38). Here are apostles and evangelists and solitaries’ life remote from cities. This I have embraced with all my heart, that I may win what has been promised to Christ’s martyrs and all His other saints, and so I may truly say, Because of the words of your lips I have kept hard ways. I have heard of Abraham, God’s friend, who obeyed the divine voice and went into the wilderness; of Isaac who submitted to authority; of Jacob, the patriarch, who left his home; of Joseph, the chaste, who was sold; of the three children, who learned how to fast, and fought with the fire; of Daniel thrown twice into the lion’s den; of Jeremiah speaking boldly, and thrown into a pit of mud; of Isaiah, who saw unspeakable things, cut asunder with a saw; of Israel led away captive; of John the rebuker of adultery, beheaded; of Christ’s martyrs slain. But why say more? Here our Saviour Himself was crucified for our sakes that by His death He might give us life, and train and attract us all to endurance. To Him I press on, and to the Father and to the Holy Ghost. I strive to be found true, judging myself unworthy of this world’s goods. And yet not I because of the world, but the world because of me. Think of all these things in your heart; follow them with zeal; fight, as you have been commanded, for the truth to the death. For Christ was made obedient even unto death (Phil 2:8). The Apostle says, “Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart…in departing from the living God. But exhort one another…(and edify one another [1 Thess 5:11]) while it is called today” (Heb 3:12-13). Today means the whole time of our life. Thus living, brother, you will save yourself, you will make me glad, and you will glorify God from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.
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Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, prioress of the Monastery of St. James the Mangled in Qâra, Syria, gave a talk yesterday evening at St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cleveland, titled What is Really Happening in Syria Today? I made a point of attending, having first heard about Mother Agnes-Mariam and her work a couple of months ago. In September, in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack on East Ghouta, an eastern suburb of Damascus, she presented a report to the United Nations in Geneva, pointing out that some of the children who were shown as victims in the amateur videos that began circulating on the internet on the morning of the attack had been kidnapped by rebels two weeks earlier after a massacre by rebel forces in the town of Latakia; also, in different videos, purportedly filmed at different locations, the same dead children reappear. In brief, the children were cynically used as props. (A brief summary of the report, written by Mother Agnes-Mariam herself, along with a link to the PDF of the full report, will be found here.)

Most of Mother Agnes-Mariam’s talk yesterday centered upon the work of the organization she heads, Mussalaha (“Reconciliation”), described as “a popular movement in Syria that mediates disputes and organizes ceasefires between opposing forces.” It became clear to me, in hearing her speak, that her peace activism in Syria long preceded the incident in August that nearly brought about US airstrikes; in her talk, she described some of the more memorable incidents in which she and her organization had made a difference. She seems to have a rare ability to maintain communications with all the different sides in this war, not excluding the Al Nusra Front. (I should qualify that: she explicitly stated that the aim of her organization is to promote reconciliation among the various Syrian parties in this war; she does not negotiate with the foreign jihadists who have flocked to the country.) One of her most moving stories concerned a local meeting in (I think) Aleppo between opposing political forces; the meeting was full of mutual recriminations, and nothing was getting done. Then a man, attending the meeting, related the story of the kidnapping of his only son, named Fayyad, 20-years-old. He and his wife tried for months to secure his release. One day, he received a phone call; the voice asked, “would you like to see your son?” The father replied, “Of course, we are ready to do whatever you ask.” The voice replied that, okay, they would bring him. The father and mother were overjoyed, and anticipated meeting their son. Two days later a car drove by their house, very fast; when the parents opened the door, they found a bag containing the remains of their son Fayyad, who had been hacked into pieces. But the point of the story, as Mother Agnes-Mariam told it, was not the heinous crime as such. The man who told the story said to the warring factions that, although the death of his son was a crime without justification, a loss that had taken away his reason for living, and that, if there was anyone there who had good reason for wanting to seek revenge, it was him, he was, nevertheless, there and then, forgiving his enemies, and beseeching them all, for the good of Syria, to forgive each other. This man, as Mother Agnes-Mariam pointed out, was a Sunni Muslim. She said this, pointing out that this kind of reconciliation is open to all, and is the only way forward if Syria is to have a future.

Like a lot of people, I have been much preoccupied over the past year by what is going on in Syria; in general, I see my own government’s policies there as shameful, duplicitous, and motivated more by calculations of geopolitics than by any genuine concern for the people in that country who are suffering and dying. It is easy to become cynical about what is going on, both in Washington and in Syria itself. It is easy to despair, or to be critical. Mother Agnes-Mariam is one courageous woman who, instead of despairing about the situation, is there on the ground actively doing something about it. She is certainly critical about lies that are told to perpetuate the war; yet the focus of her effort is not there, but on the process of reconciliation which is necessary if all the various parties are to live in peace. She is going to be in the United States for the next month, raising support for her ministry; if she plans to speak in your town, I would urge you to go and hear what she has to say.

Don’t curse Plato

September 18, 2013

From time to time I had heard about this story from the desert fathers, but it is only today that I came across the actual passage. It is found in a work by St. Anastasius of Sinai, a seventh-century abbot of the Monastery of St. Catherine, titled Interrogationes et responsiones de diversis capitibus a diversis propositae, that is, Questions and answers on various topics, asked by various people (PG 89, 311A-824C); the passage cited is found at col. 764 B-D.

Note that St. Anastasius, at the end of the passage, explicitly rejects the view, still popular among many, that hell is only temporary, or that there is a possibility for repentance there; he says that the story about Plato shouldn’t be taken to imply this, as Christ went down to Hades only once.

Why the scholar cursed Plato exceedingly, the author doesn’t inform us.

ΕΡΩΤΗΣΙΣ ΡΙΑ´.

QUESTION 111.

Τί οὖν; καὶ τοῖς Ἕλλησι τοῖς τελευτήσασι πρὸ τῆς Χριστοῦ παρουσίας, δεῖ εὔχεσθαι, καὶ μὴ ἀναθεματίζειν;

What then? Must one pray also for the pagans who died before Christ’s coming, and not anathematize them?

ΑΠΟΚΡΙΣΙΣ.

ANSWER.

Μηδαμῶς ἀναθεματίσῃς ἄνθρωπον πρὸ τῆς ἐπιδημίας Χριστοῦ τελευτήσαντα· καὶ ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ προσάπαξ καὶ μόνον ἐγένετο τὸ Χριστοῦ κήρυγμα. Προλαβὼν γὰρ Ἰωάννης ὁ πρόδρομος ἐκήρυξε κἀκεῖσε τὸν Χριστόν· καὶ ἄκουσον τοῦ ἁγίου Πέτρου λέγοντος περὶ Χριστοῦ, ὅτι «Πορευθεὶς, φησὶν, ἐκήρυξε καὶ τοῖς ἐν ᾅδῃ πνεύμασι τοῖς ποτε ἀπειθήσασι.» Καὶ νῦν φέρεται εἰς ἀρχαίας παραδόσεις, ὅτι τις σχολαστικὸς πολλὰ κατηράσατο τὸν Πλάτωνα τὸν φιλόσοφον. Φαίνεται οὖν αὐτῷ καθ’ ὕπνους ὁ Πλάτων λέγων· Ἄνθρωπε, παῦσαι τοῦ καταρᾶσθαί με, σεαυτὸν γὰρ βλάπτεις, ὅτι μὲν ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλὸς γέγονα· οὐκ ἀρνοῦμαι. Πλὴν κατελθόντος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ, ὄντως οὐδεὶς ἐπίστευσε πρὸ ἐμοῦ εἰς αὐτόν. Ταῦτα δὲ ἀκούων, μὴ νομίσῃς εἶναι πάντοτε ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ μετάνοιαν· ἅπαξ γὰρ καὶ μόνον τοῦτο γέγονεν, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἐν τοῖς καταχθονίοις κατελήλυθε, τοὺς ἀπ’ αἰῶνος κεκοιμημένους ἐπισκέψασθαι. By no means should you anathematize someone who died before the coming of Christ. Even in Hades the preaching of Christ came, one single time. For John the Forerunner, going there beforehand, preached Christ. And hear what St. Peter has to say about Christ: “Going forth,” he says, “he preached even to those in Hades, who were sometime disobedient” (cf. 1 Peter 3:19-20). Now then, it is found in old tradition that there was a scholar who cursed the philosopher Plato exceedingly. So, during his sleep, Plato appeared to him and said, “Man, stop cursing me, you are only harming yourself. That I was a sinful man, I do not deny. But when Christ came down to Hades, there was in fact no one who believed in him before I did.” But when you hear these things, do not assume that there always exists [a possibility for] repentance in Hades; for this happened only once, because Christ had descended to those beneath the earth, so that he might visit those who had fallen asleep from all ages.

Last May, an announcement was made on this blog that Holy Resurrection Monastery planned to move from its current location in Newberry Springs, California to a site in western New Jersey. It now turns out that this move is not to take place. Due largely to the current economic slowdown, the monks have been unable to finance it; however, they have already contracted to sell their property in Newberry Springs to a nearby Coptic monastery, and are therefore looking for another home. According to a recent post on the monastery’s website, they decided this past fall to remain in Southern California, in response to the urgent petitions of local supporters. At present, the monks seek to raise $200,000 to make a down payment on a property in Banning, California. They have set up a foundation to help them in this task. I would ask readers of this blog to consider supporting it and the monks’ mission.

Holy Resurrection Monastery of Newberry Springs, California, a Byzantine Catholic monastery led by Archimandrite Nicholas Zachariadis and including, among its fellowship, Hieromonk Maximos, the author of the Anastasis Dialogue blog, has announced that it plans to sell its property in the Mojave Desert to a nearby Coptic monastery and is seeking to acquire monastic property in the town of Belvidere in western New Jersey, near the Delaware River. The reasons for the move are described here. Essentially, after trying for some years to support themselves by running a bakery, which required them driving two hours each direction, the monks have come to the conclusion that some other means of economic support, more in keeping with their monastic calling, is necessary to the monastery’s survival and well-being. Their goal is to operate a conference center and retreat house, which would be also a center for Christian dialogue and for the “spiritual ecumenism” the monastery endeavors to promote and embody. The monks hope that the property in western New Jersey, with its proximity to both New York City and Philadelphia and to many Eastern Christian parishes, both Catholic and Orthodox, may allow them to fulfill such a vocation.

I have met the monks a number of times; they are good people and have a strong liturgical life, and I am glad to hear that they may soon be my neighbors. I urge readers of this blog to support them financially and with your prayers.