Let us increase our dedication…

Let us increase our dedication…

I wanted to include this quote by St. Antony of the Desert on my last post…but it was way too long for that post, so I decided to post it separately.  I would, however, highly recommend everyone to read The Life of Antony by St. Athanasius as soon as possible. Written in 360 C.E., it was one of the best known works of literature in the West for a thousand years or so. And, wow, is it good! =D So do yourself a favor and find a copy today! Enjoy. “[L]et us hold in common the same eagerness not to surrender what we have begun, either by growing fainthearted in the labors or by saying, ‘We have spent a long time in the discipline.’ Rather, as through making a beginning daily, let us increase our dedication… “Let us not think that the time is too long or what we do is great, for the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And let us not consider, when we look at the world, that we have given up things of some greatness, for even the entire earth is itself quite small in relation to all of heaven. If now it happened that we were lords of all the earth, and renounced all the earth, that would amount to nothing as compared with the kingdom of heaven. “For just as if someone might despise one copper drachma in order to gain a hundred gold drachma, so he who is ruler of the whole earth, and renounced it, loses little, and...
Simplicity and Self-Sacrifice: Lessons from the Desert Fathers (Part 3 of 3)

Simplicity and Self-Sacrifice: Lessons from the Desert Fathers (Part 3 of 3)

This is the third part of a paper about the values of simplicity and self-sacrifice as seen in the lives of the early Dessert Fathers. Previous posts this series can be found here and here. In the intervening years between the time of the Desert Fathers (4th and 5th century C.E.) and today (21st century C.E.), many people have sought to incorporate the concepts promoted by the humble men and women of the desert. St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.), a notable materialistic playboy before his conversion to Christianity, was especially taken with the simplicity and self-sacrifice of St. Anthony, one of the first Desert Fathers. In pondering Anthony’s life, Augustine, a young man in Milan (the capital of the Western Roman Empire at the time), came to the conclusion that “no bodily pleasure, however great it might be and whatever earthly light might shed lustre upon it, was worthy of comparison, or even of mention, beside the happiness of the life of the saints.”[1] This conclusion prompted Augustine to reject the culture of his day and embrace the simplicity and self-sacrifice of the Desert Father, concepts he later helped promote throughout Christendom. Father Joseph Warrilow (1909-1998 C.E.) is a more modern example of someone who embraced the simplicity and self-sacrifice of the Desert Fathers. Father Joe, as he was commonly called, was a Benedictine monk who lived seventy years in a monastery on the Ryde Isle of Wight in England.[2] The Benedictine order of the Roman Catholic Church was started by St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547 C.E.) who drew upon the wisdom of the Desert Fathers in the creation of...
Simplicity and Self-Sacrifice: Lessons from the Desert Fathers (Part 2 of 3)

Simplicity and Self-Sacrifice: Lessons from the Desert Fathers (Part 2 of 3)

This is the second part of a paper about the values of simplicity and self-sacrifice as seen in the lives of the early Dessert Fathers. The first part of this series can be found here. St. Anthony, the most famous of the Desert Fathers, was reported by St. Athanasius as teaching his follow sojourners not to pursue nor yearn for earthly possessions. Rather, followers of Jesus were to pursue “prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, concern for the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from anger,” and “hospitality.” [1] These are the possessions that will run ahead of a believer, preparing heaven for their arrival.[2] This message of Anthony carries within it echoes of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:23-34 to his disciples: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[3] The thought of giving away one’s material possessions in an effort to pursue Jesus may sound strange and extreme to most 21st century Christians in the United States of America. Capitalism and materialism has so enveloped American culture that such thoughts of simplicity and self-sacrifice are rarely, if ever, heard or contemplated. The Desert Fathers, however, beckon the believer of today to resist the seductive nature of modern culture and fight the “battle of the heart.”[4] It is about recognizing the forces at work that cause a person to desire something they currently do not have while simultaneously embracing an indifferent attitude towards...
Simplicity and Self-Sacrifice: Lessons from the Desert Fathers (Part 1 of 3)

Simplicity and Self-Sacrifice: Lessons from the Desert Fathers (Part 1 of 3)

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput recently remarked that “Americans have never liked history” since the “past comes with obligations on the present, and the most cherished illusion of American life is that we can remake ourselves at will.”[1] This self-imposed historical amnesia causes the church to have an unhealthy “egocentric obsession with the present.”[2] Christianity, however, does not belong solely to the living but also to those who have confessed Christ throughout the ages.[3] Accordingly there is wisdom in listening to and learning from the ancient fathers and mothers who have helped set the course of Christianity. While history is rich with saints worthy of study and emulation, this three part blog series will seek to examine the lives of the Desert Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries of the Common Era. Similar to modern believers, these Jesus followers lived at a time when the prophetic edge of the church was dulled and Christianity was in favor in the halls of power.[4] Seeking to follow Jesus with all their heart, soul, strength and mind (Lk. 10:27), the Desert Fathers gave up fleshly comforts (e.g. soft beds, nice clothes, conveniences, regular meals, etc.) and embraced a life of simplicity and self-sacrifice. Though their lifestyle may seem extreme, “rough-hewn words of life” pour forth from these ancient fathers to water the souls of the modern Christian who are facing an increasingly materialistic, sexual, hectic, and individualistic culture and church world.[5] Contrary to the prayers of those seeking the American Dream of wealth and riches, Agur the son of Jakeh asked the Creator King to keep both poverty and riches far from...
Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers

Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers

Translated by Maxwell Staniforth, the book Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers is a collection of ancient manuscripts from the second century CE. It includes works by Clement of Rome (The First Epistle to the Corinthians), Ignatius of Antioch (Epistle to the Ephesians, Epistle to the Magnesians, Epistle to the Trallians, Epistle to the Romans, Epistle to the Philadelphians, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, and Epistle to Polycarp), and Polycarp of Smyrna (Epistle to the Philippians) as well as four texts from unknown authors (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Epistle to Diognetus, Epistle of Barnabas, and The Didache). Though it is not known for sure whether or not all the authors personally knew the Apostles, these texts represent the “first trickles” of Christianity beyond the time of the Apostles who walked with Jesus.[1] Though each of the thirteen texts included this book were written in a different context (with the exception of the seven letters from Ignatius of Antioch), two common themes emerge when reading them. The first theme is the emphasis placed on the authority of the local bishop. As Ignatius puts it, the bishops “represent the mind of Jesus Christ” and, as such, believers are to unite in a “common act of submission” and acknowledge the “authority of [their] bishop and clergy.”[2] While this emphasis on the authority of the local bishop can be hard for a 21st century Protestant in the Western world, it is understandable as these authors were trying to protect the treasure given to them by the Apostles. The New Testament, while written, had not been canonized by the church at large, leaving open the...
The Rule of St. Benedict

The Rule of St. Benedict

Though very little is known about the life of St. Benedict, his Rule was to have a lasting impact on the development of Christianity. Born into a “distinguished Italian family” in 480 C.E., St. Benedict would abandon his liberal education in Rome for a life of solitude.[1] However his solitude would soon be broken by groups of monks who sought out his wisdom and guidance. While at first St. Benedict refused to allow these visiting monks to live near him, he eventually took them on as disciples. At some point in his life, St. Benedict wrote his famous Rule to help guide these disciples as they banded together into communities. By the time of his death in 547 C.E., St. Benedict had founded twelve monasteries “with an abbot and twelve monks in each of them.” [2] The Rule itself is fairly simple and straight forward, blending the best elements of the Eastern and Western monastic movements. The four primary guiding elements of the Rule are the opus Dei, communal work, intellectual activity, and vow of stability. Gluing these elements together was an “evident love and concern for the welfare” of the monks along with some basic common sense. [3] In reading the Rule I could not help but be struck at the cult-like instructions of total obedience to the abbot. Not only were the monks to obey every command of the abbot, they were not allowed to disagree with him on threat of physical punishment. [4] Though I know the culture was different during the time of St. Benedict with family patriarchs regularly controlling the actions of their offspring,...