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Monday 1 September 2014

Anti-Catholic Article in Time Magazine...of course

Whoever wrote this article has not done the required homework.

Being a nun has nothing to do with apostolic succession of men, as clarified many times by the Church-what Christ decided, as God, cannot be changed.

Being a nun has nothing to do with disobeying the Church with regard to doctrine, and moral truths held for thousands of years, such as "gay rights".

Being a nun has everything to do with being a Bride of Christ and servant in the Church.

One young person described the problem exactly-gross egoism. Her statement as to whether she would decide to be a nun or not reveals a complete lack of understanding as to what a vocation is and what the Church is.

Jesus demands more than our own egos...And, His Church is His Mystical Body.

 “I want to work for an employer that values what I do.”  Poor misguided youth....if she fell in love with Christ, she would make a good nun.

Many nuns, obviously, have lost their first love, Christ, and supplanted true religion with politics.

Politics do not saves us...Christ does.

On Our Sede Friends

Two lovely women I know get a newspaper which is published by a famous group of Catholics. Thankfully, we had a discussion about some of the anti-papal articles, and these two women can see clearly the false thinking involved.

I have read the July and August editions. Now, I have known for a year or so that some of the writers have crossed into dubious positions regarding some aspects of the Church. I want to address some ideas which indicate that a person's soul is in danger.

First of all, as I have written many times on this blog, to stay with Rome is to be protected from the lies of the evil one. For over two-thousand years, the Church, established by Christ for our salvation, for our guidance and care, has seen saints, sinners, even heretics. The Church has been vigilant in condemning errors in our own times, with both St. John Paul II and the Pope Emeritus pointing out the dangers of the Modernist heresies, which have been highlighted for our benefit for over a hundred years..

However, some Catholics have taken criticisms of prelates and even the current Pope too far.

I shall expand on this.

Second, no teaching of the Church from the Throne, from the Chair of Peter has been heretical. None, and none ever will. This is our faith, our teaching.

Third, we have all been given reason and the ability to study, all. Man is a rational animal. Man has natural law written on his heart. There is no one, except those who are mentally challenged, who cannot read the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the encyclicals.

It is our duty, not merely our right, to study and understand our faith. Those who do not are lax and in danger of losing their souls. If we are dull, it is because of sin in our lives. Dullness of the intellect of an adult is caused by habitual sin. Even children learned the Baltimore Catechism and Latin in previous days.

Fourth, as laity, many things are NOT in our area of expertise and many things are not our business. We have our own call to evangelize and make holy the world, not to be constant critics of popes, cardinals, bishops.

The problem is serious and it has a name.


Those who have not allowed God to purify them in the Dark Night of the senses or the spirit are the ones who are writing false teaching in this newspaper and in blogs.

In the Dark Night, one sees one sins, God destroys egoism, and one gains a proper perspective of one's standing before God.

If one is holier than Rome, or thinks one is, one has not worked through the levels of humility.

We cannot follow sedevacantists. Those who do not think the present pope is truly pope are not only in error, but have separated themselves from the Church of Christ. Their souls are in grave danger. They have become Protestants.

This is the way of the heretics. Luther, Zwingle, Calvin all thought their ideas were better than Rome's and that they were holier than the various popes in their times. We can judge objective evil, but we cannot judge the heart of anyone.

Do you remember when, as an adolescent, you first discovered your parents, your good Catholic parents, were flawed? You rebelled for a short time and, then, came to your senses, that all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Some writers are stuck at being fifteen years of age.

Now, we can rationally see mistakes of prelates and in our own parishes and dioceses, if there are serious errors coming from the clergy, we address this personally, and then, if necessary, involve the bishop, with reverence to his role, his call, his apostolic succession. Not all, in fact, very few, bishops are saints, but we still owe them respect.

Pride is a sin which morphs, making the person think he is humble and obedient to Christ, when in reality that person is spinning off into their own church.

There is only one Church.

I am warning Catholics both here in the States and in Europe not to read or listen to those who are sedevacantists. They write poison, which seeps into the soul, the heart, the mind.

To stay with Rome is the only road to salvation, and those of us who have been given the Truth are more responsible for our salvation than others.

I am sad to see bloggers leaving the heart of Rome. We must pray for them, as their souls are in great danger.

Look at the lives of the saints. There is only one St. Catherine of Siena. There is only one Athanasius, and the many, many saints who lived in times of turmoil remained humble, obedient to the Truth, obedient to Rome. Unless one is as holy as those two saints mentioned above, one should be quiet.

Read the Doctors of the Church, read the encyclicals, our rich heritage of truth.

Read the Fathers of the Church.

If the sedes spent as much time on their private lives working to perfection, they would not have time to be so critical. If they were evangelizing, spreading the Good News of the Gospel, they would not have so much time to be critical.

They have taken the war for holiness outside themselves and made it external, political. This is a false position. We fight spiritual warfare primarily in our own souls.

Only those in the highest states of holiness have the "right", the knowledge, to criticize.

Beams and motes....or beams and beams proliferate. Deal with your own beams first.

Priorities. We are not called to be clerical critics first and foremost.

Do what lay people are supposed to do--get holy and be leaven in the world.

Pride is the primal sin. And, those who engage in constant criticisms have fallen into the adversarial spirit, which is not from God.

Here is another post on this subject.

26 Apr 2014
A person caught up in the adversarial spirit will not find peace in God, but fall into rancor,anger and depression. If you are merely tearing down, you have let satan use you. Eventually, the person with the adversarial spirit ...


I realize spacing and fonts are off in this day's posts. I have tried to correct these over and over, but the Net service is off and on and does not seem to keep my corrections. It has been frustrating.

I shall try and make corrections AGAIN, later.

Perhaps, someday, I shall have decent Internet service. But, I use what I have.

Also, be patient about pictures.

Thanks, STM

Four Doctors of The Church in September--Two Tomorrow

This little series will continue tomorrow with SS. Jerome, whose feast day is September 30th, and Gregory the Great, whose feast is September 3rd.

Until then....

Doctors of The Church in September; Bellarmine

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Part 110: Doctors of the Church and Perfection: Robert Bellarmine

Bellarmine's On the Ascent of the Mind to God is a treatise on the way to achieve perfection.

I laid the groundwork from his other work yesterday, and now go more into detail.

Here is a snippet for meditation:

From a treatise On the Ascent of the Mind to God by Saint Robert Bellarmine 
(Ante exsilium, nn 1-3: PG 52, 427*-430)

Incline my heart to your decrees 

Sweet Lord, you are meek and merciful. Who would not give himself wholeheartedly to your service, if he began to taste even a little of your fatherly rule? What command, Lord, do you give your servants? Take my yoke upon you, you say. And what is this yoke of yours like? My yoke, you say, is easy and my burden light. Who would not be glad to bear a yoke that does not press hard but caresses? Who would not be glad for a burden that does not weigh heavy but refreshes? And so you were right to add: And you will find rest for your souls. And what is this yoke of yours that does not weary, but gives rest? It is, of course, that first and greatest commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. What is easier, sweeter, more pleasant, than to love goodness, beauty and love, the fullness of which you are, O Lord, my God?

Is it not true that you promise those who keep your commandments a reward more desirable than great wealth and sweeter than honey? You promise a most abundant reward, for as your apostle James says: The Lord has prepared a crown of life for those who love him. What is this crown of life? It is surely a greater good than we can conceive of or desire, as Saint Paul says, quoting Isaiah: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.

Truly then the recompense is great for those who keep your commandments. That first and greatest commandment helps the man who obeys, not the God who commands. In addition, the other commandments of God perfect the man who obeys them. They provide him with what he needs. They instruct and enlighten him and make him good and blessed. If you are wise, then, know that you have been created for the glory of God and your own eternal salvation. This is your goal; this is the center of your life; this is the treasure of your heart. If you reach this goal, you will find happiness. If you fail to reach it, you will find misery.

May you consider truly good whatever leads to your goal and truly evil whatever makes you fall away from it. Prosperity and adversity, wealth and poverty, health and sickness, honors and humiliations, life and death, in the mind of the wise man, are not to be sought for their own sake, nor avoided for their own sake. But if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness, then they are good and should be sought. If they detract from this, they are evil and must be avoided.

To be continued...

Four Doctors of The Church in September-Bellarmine

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Part 109: Doctors of the Church and Perfection: Robert Bellarmine

The Church has been so blessed to have seen the rise of great defenders of the Faith just when needed.

Bellarmine is untangling many of the false ideas of Protestantism in his works and clarifying simple, as well as complex teachings, which had fallen into confusion.

We have seen his comments on the Theological Virtues, and we saw his comments on the Evangelical Counsels, , that is, his advice on an examination of conscience which helps one achieve those counsels.

Now, he moves to the Four Cardinal Virtues, and emphasizes three virtues which had become misunderstood in the wake of  the Protestant Revolt. However, I want to emphasize his section on prayer, as  here one clearly sees the movement from purgation to perfection. I shall make comments in blue.

In fine, that prayer can obtain many gifts, St. John Chrysostom beautifully teaches us in his " two 
books" on Prayer, in which he employs the comparison of the human hands. For as man is born 
naked and helpless, and in want of all things, and vet cannot complain of his Creator, because He has given him hands, which are the organ of organs, and by which he is enabled to provide for himself 
food, garments, house, &c.; so also the spiritual man can do nothing without the divine .assistance; 
but he possesses the power of prayer, the organ of all spiritual organs, whereby he can easily provide 
for himself all things. 

Besides these three primary advantages of prayer, there are also many others. For, in the first place, 
prayer enlightens the mind; man cannot directly fix the eye of his soul upon God, who is the light, without  being enlightened by Him. “Come ye to him and be enlightened” saith David. 

This enlightenment can come both in the purgation state and, obviously, in the state of illumination, when one has infused knowledge about Scripture and God. One of the problems with modern Catholics is that they do not leave enough time for prayer. One hour a day in prayer, plus one hour a day in reading Scripture, that is, the lectio divina, should bring about enlightenment with regard to one's sins and failings.

Secondly, prayer nourishes 
our hope and confidence; for the oftener we speak with another, the more confidently do we approach to him. 

Thirdly, it inflames our charity, and makes our soul more capable of receiving greater gifts, as St. Augustine 

Fourthly, it increases humility and chaste fear, for he who goes to prayer, acknowledges that he is a
assistance he stands in need in everything.beggar before God, and therefore humbles himself before Him, and is most careful not to offend Him, of whose 

One can see in these steps, the necessity for prayer on the way to perfection. In fact, much purgation takes place directly in prayer, especially before the Eucharist in Adoration. Adoration is a great gift to modern Catholics on the road through purgation to illumination.

Fifthly, prayer produces in our mind a contempt of all earthly goods; 

for all temporal objects must appear mean and contemptible in the eyes of him who continually meditates on 
things spiritual and eternal.(See St. Augustine, (Lib. ix. Confess))

Sixthly, prayer gives us incredible delight, 
since by it we begin to taste how sweet is the Lord. And how great this sweetness is, we may understand from this circumstance alone, that some I have known pass not only nights, but even whole days and nights in prayer, without any trouble or inconvenience. In fine, besides the utility and the pleasure, prayer also adds
dignity and honour to us. For even the angels themselves honour that soul which they see is so often and so familiarly admitted, to speak with the divine Majesty.

What Bellarmine is describing is an advanced stage of the illuminative state. Such a devotion to prayer becomes a necessity to one seeking union with Christ. But, what is our prayers are unanswered? Read on...

We will now speak on the method of praying well, in which chiefly consists the Art of living well, 
and consequently the Art of dying well. For what our Lord says, “Ask and it shall be given to you, 
for every one that asketh, receiveth;" St. James, in his epistle, declares it to be understood with the condition, if we ask properly. “You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss." (chap, iv.) We may reason then as follows: he who properly asks for the gift of living well, will doubtless receive it; and he who properly asks for perseverance in a good life until death, and by this a happy death also, will certainly obtain it. We will, therefore, briefly explain the conditions of prayer, that so we may learn how to pray well, live well, and die well. 

I am sure you have met people who have their prayers answered regularly. Their prayer is efficacious. One begins to ask those who exhibit efficacious prayer for intercessions. The answers lie in both the purity of heart, mind and soul of the one who prays, and in the strength of the virtues practiced.

The first condition is faith, according to the words of the apostle, " How then shall they call upon 
him, in whom they have not believed?” and with this St. James agrees, " Let him ask in faith, nothing 

After purgation, one begins to pray in the Will of God, being closer to God through purity.

But this necessity of faith is not so to be understood, as if it were necessary to believe that God would 
certainly grant what we ask, for thus our faith would often prove false, and we should therefore 
obtain nothing. We must believe, then, that God is most powerful, most wise, most High, and most 
faithful; and therefore that He knows, and that He can and is prepared to do what we beg, of Him, if 
He shall think proper, and it be expedient for us to receive what we ask. This faith Christ required of 
the two blind men who desired to be cured; "Do you believe, that I can do this unto you?" With the 
same faith did David pray for his sick son; for his words prove, that he believed not for certain that God would grant his request, but only that He could grant it; "Who knoweth whether the Lord may not give him to me, and the child may live?"

God did not answer David's prayer, nor did He answer Paul's prayer.

It cannot be doubted but that with the same faith the apostle Paul prayed to be delivered from the “sting of the flesh," since he prayed with faith, and his faith would have been false if he believed that God would certainly grant what at that time he asked; for he did not then obtain his request. 
And with the same faith does the Church pray, that all heretics, pagans, schismatics, and bad Christians may be converted to penance; and yet it is certain 
they are not all converted. Concerning which matter consult St. Prosper in his books " On the 
Vocation of the Gentiles."

For those tempted to believe in the heresy of universal salvation, Bellarmine's advice to read St. Prosper may be apropos. 

Another condition of prayer, and that a very necessary one, is hope or confidence. For although we 
must not by faith, which is a work of the understanding, imagine that God will certainly grant our 
requests, yet by hope, which is an act of the will, we may firmly rely upon the divine goodness, and 
certainly hope that God will give us what we ask for. This condition our Lord required of the 
paralytic, to whom He said, " Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee." The same the apostle 
requires of all, when he says, “Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace ;" and long 
before him, the prophet thus introduces God, saying, " Because he hath hoped in me, I will deliver 
him." But because hope springs from perfect faith, therefore when the Scripture requires faith in the 
great things, it adds something regarding hope; hence we read in St. Mark, "Amen I say to you, that 
whosoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed and be cast into the sea, and shall not 
stagger in his heart, but believe that whatsoever he saith shall be done; it shall be done unto him: "
of which faith producing confidence, are to be understood the words of the apostle; " If I should have 
all faith, so that I could remove mountains, & etc...

Confidence increases after purgation. Once one is living the life of the virtues, there occurs a corresponding growth of confidence in Divine Providence. 
Hence, John Cassian writes in his Treatise on Prayer, that it is a certain sign of our request being 
granted, when in prayer we hope that God will certainly give us what we ask; and when in our 
petitions we do not in any way hesitate, but pour forth in prayers with spiritual joy.
A third condition is charity or justice, by which we are delivered from our sins; for none but the 
friends of God obtain the gifts of God. Thus David speaks in the Psalms: " The eyes of the Lord are 
upon the just; and his ears unto their prayers: " and in another place, " If I have looked at iniquity in 
my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

The peace of the person who is abiding in the Lord is a great witness of the state of illumination.

And in the New Testament our Lord himself says: " If you abide in me, and my words (precepts) 
abide in you, - you shall ask whatsoever you will, and it shall be done unto you." And the beloved 
disciple saith: "Dearly beloved, if our heart do not reprehend us, we have confidence towards God: 
and whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of him; because we keep his commandments, and do 
those things which are pleasing in his sight." (1 Epist. of St. John iii. 21, 22.) This is not contrary to the doctrine, that when the publican asked of God the forgiveness of his sins, he returned home 
"justified;" for a penitent sinner does not obtain his request as a sinner, but as a penitent; for as a 
sinner he is the enemy of God; as a penitent, the friend of God. He that commits sin, does what is not 
pleasing unto God; but he who repents of his sins, does what is most pleasing to Him. 
A fourth condition is humility, by which he that prays, confides not in his own justice, but in the 
goodness of God: "But to whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little, and of a 
contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words?" (Isaias lxvi. 2.) And Ecclesiasticus adds: "The 
prayer of him that humbleth himself, shall pierce the clouds: and till it come nigh he will not be 
comforted: and he will not depart till the Most High behold." (xxxv. 21.)

Here, the modern men and women fail miserably  Either falling into vainglory or into false humility  one avoids the reality of facing one's self.

A fifth condition is devotion, by which we pray not negligently, as many are accustomed to do, but 
with attention, earnestness, diligence, and fervour: our Lord severely blames those who pray with 
their lips only; thus He speaks by Isaiah: "This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their 
lips glorify me; but their heart is far from me." (xxix. 13.) This virtue springs from a lively faith, and consists not in habit alone, but in deed. For he who attentively and with a firm faith considers how great is the Majesty of God, how great our nothingness, and how important those things are we ask for, cannot possibly help praying with the greatest humility, reverence, devotion, and fervour. 

We shall here add powerful testimonies from two of the holy fathers. St. Jerome in his Dialogues 
against the Luciferians, says: "I commence prayer: I should not pray, if I did not believe; but if I had 
true faith, this heart, which God sees, I would cleanse; I would strike my breast: I would water my 
cheeks with my tears: I would neglect all attention to my body and become pale; I would throw 
myself at the feet of my Lord, and wash them with my weeping, and wipe them with my hair: I 
would clasp the cross, and not depart before I had obtained mercy. Now most frequently during my 
prayers, I am walking either along the porticos, or am counting my usury; or being carried away by evil thought; I entertain those things which it is shameful to speak of. Where is our faith ? Do we suppose that Jonas prayed thus? The three children? Daniel in the lions den? Or the good thief on the cross?" 

St. Bernard, in his Sermon on the Four Methods of Praying, thus writes "It especially behoves us, during the time of prayer, to enter the heavenly chamber that chamber I mean, in which the King of kings sitteth on his royal throne, surrounded by an innumerable and glorious army of blessed spirits. 

We have lost the ability to be humble in the West. Part of this has been the culture of entitlement and the lack of disciplining children. Without discipline, a person grow up with a will which has not been bent to obedience and humility. One sees this daily.

With what reverence then, with what fear, with what humility, ought dust and ashes to approach, 
we who are nothing but vile creeping insects! With what trembling, earnestness, care, and solicitude, 
ought miserable man to stand before the divine Majesty, in presence of the angels, in the assembly of 
the just? In all our actions then, we have much need of vigilance, especially in prayer."

Vigilance in prayer means intellectual engagement. "Paying attention"....

The sixth condition is perseverance, which our Lord in two parables has recommended in St. Luke; 
the first is concerning him who went in the night to a friend to ask for the loan of two loaves; who 
being refused because of the unseasonable hour, yet by perseverance obtained his request. (St. Luke 
xi.) The second is concerning the widow who besought the judge to free her from her adversary; and 
the judge, although a very bad man, and one that feared neither God nor man, yet being overcome by the perseverance and importunity of the woman, he delivered her from her adversary. From these 
examples our Lord concludes, that much more ought we to persevere in prayer to God, because He is 
just and merciful. And, as St. James adds: "He giveth to all abundantly, and upbraideth not ;" that is, 
hegives liberally to all who ask His gifts; and He " upbraideth not" their importunity, should they be 
too troublesome in their importunities; for God has no measure in His riches nor in His mercy. St. 
Augustine, in his explanation of the last verse of Psalm lxv. adds these words: " If thou shalt see that thy prayer is not rejected, thou art secure, because his mercy is not removed from thee."

A mystery begins to unfold.  The more one prays, the more one wants to pray. The more one prays, the more God reveal Himself to the person. The more God reveals Himself, the more one desires God. One moves from the purgation of sins and imperfections, to illuminations, and finally to unity.

It is obvious that, like the other Doctors of the Church, Bellarmine experienced these steps in order to share with us the way to perfection.

To be continued...

Doctors of The Church for September; John Chrysostom

An important homily for our times of great suffering in the Church is this one from John Chrysostom, one of the September Doctors of The Church. I have posted the entire homily here as it is so timely

Homily II.
Acts I. 6
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
When the disciples intend to ask anything, they approach Him together, that by dint of numbers they may abash Him into compliance. They well knew that in what He had said previously, “Of that day knoweth no man” (Matt. xxiv. 36), He had merely declined telling them: therefore they again drew near, and put the question. They would not have put it had they been truly satisfied with that answer. For having heard that they were about to receive the Holy Ghost, they, as being now worthy of instruction, desired to learn. Also they were quite ready for freedom: for they had no mind to address themselves to danger; what they wished was to breathe freely again; for they were no light matters that had happened to them, but the utmost peril had impended over them. And without saying any thing to Him of the Holy Ghost, they put this question: “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They did not ask, when? but whether “at this time.” So eager were they for that day. Indeed, to me it appears that they had not any clear notion of the nature of that kingdom; for the Spirit had not yet instructed them.30 And they do not say, When shall these things be? but they approach Him with greater honour, saying, “Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom,” as being now already fallen. For there they were still affected towards sensible objects, seeing they were not yet become better than those who were before them; here they have henceforth high conceptions concerning Christ. Since then their minds are elevated, He also speaks to them in a higher strain. For He no longer tells them, “Of that day not even the Son of Man knoweth” (Mark xiii. 32); but He says, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power (Acts i. 7.) Ye ask things greater than your capacity, He would say. And yet even now they learned things that were much greater than this. And that you may see that this is strictly the case, look how many things I shall enumerate. What, I pray you, was greater than their having learned what they did learn? Thus, they learned that there is a Son of God, and that God has a Son equal with Himself in dignity (John v. 17–20); they learned that there will be a resurrection (Matt. xvii. 9); that when He ascended He sat on the right hand of God (Luke xxii. 69); and what is still more stupendous, that Flesh is seated in heaven, and adored by Angels, and that He will come again (Mark xvi. 19); they learned what is to take place in the judgment (Matt. xvi. 27); learned that they shall then sit and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke xxi. 27); learned that the Jews would be cast out, and in their stead the Gentiles should come in (Matt. xix. 28). For, tell me, which is greater? to learn that a person will reign, or to learn the time when? (Luke xxi. 24). Paul learned “things which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. xii. 4); things that were before the world was made, he learned them all. Which is the more difficult, the beginning or the end? Clearly to learn the beginning. This, Moses learned, and the time when, and how long ago: and he enumerates the years. And31 the wise Solomon saith, “I will make mention of things from the beginning of the world.” And that the time is at hand, they do know: as Paul saith, “The Lord is at hand, be careful for nothing.” (Phil. iv. 5). These things they knew not [then], and yet He mentions many signs (Matt. ch. xxiv). But, as He has just said, “Not many days hence,” wishing them to be vigilant, and did not openly declare the precise moment, so is it here also. However, it is not about the general Consummation that they now ask Him, but, “Wilt Thou at this time,” say they, “restore the kingdom to Israel?” And not even this did He reveal 12to them. They also asked this [about the end of the world] before: and as on that occasion He answered by leading them away from thinking that their deliverance was near and, on the contrary, cast them into the midst of perils, so likewise on this occasion but more mildly. For, that they may not imagine themselves to be wronged, and these things to be mere pretences, hear what He says: He immediately gives them that at which they rejoiced: for He adds: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts i. 8.) Then, that they may make no more enquiries, straightway He was received up. Thus, just as on the former occasion He had darkened their minds by awe, and by saying, “I know not;” here also He does so by being taken up. For great was their eagerness on the subject, and they would not have desisted; and yet it was very necessary that they should not learn this. For tell me,32 which do the Gentiles most disbelieve? that there will be a consummation of the world, or that God is become man, and issued from the Virgin?33 But I am ashamed of dwelling on this point, as if it were about some difficult matter. Then again, that the disciples might not say, Why dost thou leave the matter in suspense? He adds, “Which the Father hath put in His own power.” And yet He declared the Father’s power and His to be one: as in the saying, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.” (John v. 21.) If where need is to work, Thou actest with the same power as the Father; where it behooves to know, dost Thou not know with the same power? Yet certainly to raise up the dead is much greater than to learn the day. If the greater be with power, much more the other.
But just as when we see a child crying, and pertinaciously wishing to get something from us that is not expedient for him, we hide the thing, and show him our empty hands, and say, “See, we have it not:” the like has Christ here done with the Apostles. But as the child, even when we show34 him [our empty hands], persists with his crying, conscious he has been deceived, and then we leave him, and depart, saying, “Such an one calls me:” and we give him something else instead, in order to divert him from his desire, telling him it is a much finer thing than the other, and then hasten away; in like manner Christ acted.35 The disciples asked to have something, and He said He had it not. And on the first occasion he frightened them. Then again they asked to have it now: He said He had it not; and He did not frighten them now, but after having shown36 [the empty hands], He has done this, and gives them a plausible reason:37 “Which the Father,” He says, “hath put in his own power.” 

What? Thou not know the things of the Father! Thou knowest Him, and not what belongs to Him! And yet Thou hast said, “None knoweth the Father but the Son” (Luke x. 25); and, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. ii. 10); and Thou not know this! But they feared to ask Him again, lest they should hear Him say, “Are ye also without understanding?” (Matt. xv. 26.) For they feared Him now much more than before. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” As in the former instance He had not answered their question (for it is the part of a teacher to teach not what the disciple chooses, but what is expedient for him to learn), so in this, He tells them beforehand, for this reason, what they ought to know, that they may not be troubled. In truth, they were yet weak. But to inspire them with confidence, He raised up their souls, and concealed what was grievous. 13Since he was about to leave them very shortly, therefore in this discourse He says nothing painful. But how? He extols as great the things which would be painful: all but saying, “‘Fear not’: for ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria.” For since he had said, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not” (Matt. x. 5), what there He left unsaid, He here adds, “And to the uttermost part of the earth;” and having spoken this, which was more fearful than all the rest, then that they may not again question Him, He held His peace. “And having this said, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (v. 9). Seest thou that they did preach and fulfil the Gospel? For great was the gift He had bestowed on them. In the very place, He says, where ye are afraid, that is, in Jerusalem, there preach ye first, and afterwards unto the uttermost part of the earth. Then for assurance of what He had said, “While they beheld, He was taken up.” Not “while they beheld” did He rise from the dead, but “while they beheld, He was taken up.” Inasmuch, however, as the sight of their eyes even here was not all-sufficient; for in the Resurrection they saw the end, but not the beginning, and in the Ascension they saw the beginning, but not the end: because in the former it had been superfluous to have seen the beginning, the Lord Himself Who spake these things being present, and the sepulchre showing clearly that He is not there; but in the latter, they needed to be informed of the sequel by word of others: inasmuch then as their eyes do not suffice to show them the height above, nor to inform them whether He is actually gone up into heaven, or only seemingly into heaven, see then what follows. That it was Jesus Himself they knew from the fact that He had been conversing with them (for had they seen only from a distance, they could not have recognized Him by sight),38 but that He is taken up into Heaven the Angels themselves inform them. Observe how it is ordered, that not all is done by the Spirit, but the eyes also do their part. But why did “a cloud receive Him?” This too was a sure sign that He went up to Heaven. Not fire, as in the case of Elijah, nor fiery chariot, but “a cloud received Him;” which was a symbol of Heaven, as the Prophet says;39 “Who maketh the clouds His chariot” (Ps. civ. 3); it is of the Father Himself that this is said. Therefore he says, “on a cloud;” in the symbol, he would say, of the Divine power, for no other Power is seen to appear on a cloud. For hear again what another Prophet says: “The Lord sitteth upon a light cloud” (Is. xix. 1). For40 it was while they were listening with great attention to what He was saying, and this in answer to a very interesting question, and with their minds fully aroused and quite awake, that this thing took place. Also on the mount [Sinai] the cloud was because of Him: since Moses also entered into the darkness, but the cloud there was not because of Moses. And He did not merely say, “I go,” lest they should again grieve, but He said, “I send the Spirit” (John xvi. 5, 7); and that He was going away into heaven they saw with their eyes. O what a sight they were granted! “And while they looked stedfastly,” it is said, “toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven”—they used the expression “This” demonstratively, saying, “this Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall thus”—demonstratively, “in this way”—“come in like manner as ye have seen Him going into heaven.” (v. 10, 11.) Again, the outward appearance is cheering [“in white apparel”]. They were Angels, in the form of men. And they say, “Ye men of Galilee:” they showed themselves to be trusted by the disciples, by saying, “Ye men of Galilee.” For this was the meaning: else, what needed they to be told of their country, who knew it well enough? By their appearance also they attracted their regard, and shewed that they were from heaven. But wherefore does not Christ Himself tell them these things, instead of the Angels? He had beforehand told them all things; [“What if ye shall see the Son of Man] going up where He was before?” (John vi. 62).
Moreover the Angels did not say, ‘whom you have seen taken up,’ but, “going into heaven:” ascension is the word, not assumption; 14the expression “taken up,”41 belongs to the flesh. For the same reason they say, “He which is taken up from you shall thus come,” not, “shall be sent,” but, “shall come. He that ascended, the same is he also that descended” (Eph. iv. 10). So again the expression, “a cloud received Him:” for He Himself mounted upon the cloud. Of the expressions, some are adapted to the conceptions of the disciples, some agreeable with the Divine Majesty. Now, as they behold, their conceptions are elevated: He has given them no slight hint of the nature of His second coming. For this, “Shall thus come,” means, with the body; which thing they desired to hear; and, that he shall come again to judgment “thus” upon a cloud. “And, behold, two men stood by them.” Why is it said, “men?” Because they had fashioned themselves completely as such, that the beholders might not be overpowered. “Which also said:” their words moreover were calculated for soothing: “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” They would not let them any longer wait there for Him. Here again, these tell what is greater, and leave the less unsaid. That “He will thus come,” they say, and that “ye must look for Him from heaven.” For the rest, they called them off from that spectacle to their saying, that they might not, because they could not see Him, imagine that He was not ascended, but even while they are conversing, would be present ere they were aware. For if they said on a former occasion, “Whither goest Thou?” (John xiii. 36) much more would they have said it now.42

“Wilt Thou at this time,” say they, “restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Recapitulation). They so well knew his mildness, that after His Passion also they ask Him, “Wilt thou restore?” And yet He had before said to them, “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, but the end is not yet,” nor shall Jerusalem be taken. But now they ask Him about the kingdom, not about the end. And besides, He does not speak at great length with them after the Resurrection. They address then this question, as thinking that they themselves would be in high honor, if this should come to pass. But He (for as touching this restoration, that it was not to be, He did not openly declare; for what needed they to learn this? hence they do not again ask, “What is the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” for they are afraid to say that: but, “Wilt Thou restore the kingdom to Israel?” for they thought there was such a kingdom), but He, I say, both in parables had shown that the time was not near,43 and here where they asked, and He answered thereto, “Ye shall receive power,” says He, “when the Holy Ghost is come upon you. Is come upon you,” not, “is sent,” [to shew the Spirit’s coequal Majesty. How then darest thou, O opponent of the Spirit, to call Him a creature44?]. “And ye shall be witnesses to Me.” He hinted at the Ascension. [“And when he had spoken these things.45] Which they had heard before, and He now reminds them of. [“He was taken up.”] Already it has been shown, that He went up into heaven. [“And a cloud, etc.”] “Clouds and darkness are under His feet,” (Ps. xviii. 9; xcvii. 2) saith the Scripture: for this is declared by the expression, “And a cloud received Him:” the Lord of heaven, it means. For as a king is shown by the royal chariot, so was the royal chariot sent for Him. [“Behold, two men, etc.] That they may vent no sorrowful exclamations, and that it might not be with them as it was with Elisha, (2 Kings ii. 12) who, when his master was taken up, rent his mantle. And what say they? “This Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come.” And, “Behold, two men stood by them.” (Matt. xviii. 16.) With good reason: for “in the mouth of two witnesses shall every word be established” (Deut. xvii. 6): and these utter the same things. And it is said, that they were “in white apparel.” In the same manner as they had already seen an Angel at the sepulchre, who had even told them their own thoughts; so here also an Angel is the preacher of His Ascension; although indeed the Prophets had frequently foretold it, as well as the Resurrection.46

15 Everywhere it is Angels as at the Nativity, “for that which is conceived in her,” saith one, “is by the Holy Ghost” (Matt. i. 20): and again to Mary, “Fear not, Mary.” (Luke i. 30.) And at the Resurrection: “He is not here; He is risen, and goeth before you.” (ib. xxiv. 6.) “Come, and see!” (Matt. xxviii. 6.) And at the Second Coming. For that they may not be utterly in amaze, therefore it is added, “Shall thus come.” (ib. xxv. 31.) They recover their breath a little; if indeed He shall come again, if also thus come, and not be unapproachable! And that expression also, that it is “from them” He is taken up, is not idly added.47 And of the Resurrection indeed Christ Himself bears witness (because of all things this is, next to the Nativity, nay even above the Nativity, the most wonderful: His raising Himself to life again): for, “Destroy,” He says, “this Temple, and in three days I48 will raise it up.” (John ii. 19.) “Shall thus come,” say they. If any therefore desires to see Christ; if any grieves that he has not seen Him: having this heard, let him show forth an admirable life, and certainly he shall see Him, and shall not be disappointed. For Christ will come with greater glory, though “thus,” in this manner, with a body49; and much more wondrous will it be to see Him descending from heaven. But for what He will come, they do not add.
[“Shall thus come,” etc.] This is a confirmation of the Resurrection; for if he was taken up with a body, much rather must He have risen again with a body. Where are those who disbelieve the Resurrection? Who are they, I pray? Are they Gentiles, or Christians? for I am ignorant. But no, I know well: they are Gentiles, who also disbelieve the work of Creation. For the two denials go together: the denial that God creates any thing from nothing, and the denial that He raises up what has been buried. But then, being ashamed to be thought such as “know not the power of God” (Matt. xxii. 29), that we may not impute this to them, they allege: We do not say it with this meaning, but because there is no need of the body. Truly it may be seasonably said, “The fool will speak foolishness.” (Is. xxxii. 6.) Are you not ashamed not to grant, that God can create from nothing? If he creates from matter already existing, wherein does He differ from men? But whence, you demand, are evils? Though you should not know whence, ought you for that to introduce another evil in the knowledge of evils? Hereupon two absurdities follow. For if you do not grant, that from things which are not, God made the things which are, much more shall you be ignorant whence are evils: and then, again, you introduce another evil, the affirming that Evil (τὴν κακίαν) is uncreated. Consider now what a thing it is, when you wish to find the source of evils, to be both ignorant of it, and to add another to it. Search after the origin of evils, and do not blaspheme God. And how do I blaspheme? says he. When you make out that evils have a power equal to God’s; a power uncreated. For, observe what Paul says; “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” (Rom. i. 20.) But the devil would have both to be of matter, that there may be nothing left from which we may come to the knowledge of God. For tell me, whether is harder: to50 take that which is by nature evil (if indeed there be ought such; for I speak upon your principles, since there is no such thing as evil by nature), and make it either good, or even coefficent of good? or, to make of nothing? Whether is easier (I speak of quality); to induce the non-existent quality; or to take the existing quality, and change it into its contrary? where there is no house, to make the house; or where it is utterly destroyed, to make it identically exist again? Why, as this is impossible, so is that: to make a thing into its opposite. Tell me, whether is harder; to make a perfume, or to make filth have the effect of perfume? Say, whether of these is easier (since we subject God to our reasonings: nay, not we, but ye); to form eyes, or to make a blind man to see continuing blind, and yet more sharp-sighted, than one who does see? To make blindness into sight, and deafness into hearing? To me the other seems easier. Say then do 16you grant God that which is harder, and not grant the easier? But souls also they affirm to be of His substance. Do you see what a number of impieties and absurdities are here! In the first place, wishing to show that evils are from God, they bring in another thing more impious than this, that they are equal with Him in majesty, and God prior in existence to none of them, assigning this great prerogative even to them! In the next place, they affirm evil to be indestructible: for if that which is uncreated can be destroyed, ye see the blasphemy! 

So that it comes to this, either51 that nothing is of God if not these; or that these are God! Thirdly, what I have before spoken of, in this point they defeat themselves, and prepare against themselves fresh indignation. Fourthly, they affirm unordered matter to possess such inherent (ἐπιτηδειότητα) power. Fifthly, that evil is the cause of the goodness of God, and that without this the Good had not been good. Sixthly, they bar against us the ways of attaining unto the knowledge of God. Seventhly, they bring God down into men, yea plants and logs. For if our soul be of the substance of God, but the process of its transmigration into new bodies brings it at last into cucumbers, and melons, and onions, why then the substance of God will pass into cucumbers! And if we say, that the Holy Ghost fashioned the Temple [of our Lord’s body] in the Virgin, they laugh us to scorn: and if, that He dwelt in that spiritual Temple, again they laugh; while they themselves are not ashamed to bring down God’s substance into cucumbers, and melons, and flies, and caterpillars, and asses, thus excogitating a new fashion of idolatry: for let it not be as the Egyptians have it, “The onion is God;” but let it be, “God in the onion”! Why dost thou shrink from the notion of God’s entering into a body?52 ‘It is shocking,’ says he. Why then this is much more shocking. But,53 forsooth, it is not shocking—how should it be?—this same thing which is so, if it be into us! ‘But thy notion is indeed shocking.’ Do ye see the filthiness of their impiety?—But why do they not wish the body to be raised? And why do they say the body is evil? By what then, tell me, dost thou know God? by what hast thou the knowledge of existing things? The philosopher too: by means of what is he a philosopher, if the body does nothing towards it? Deaden the senses, and then learn something of the things one needs to know! What would be more foolish than a soul, if from the first it had the senses deadened? If the deadening of but a single part, I mean of the brain, becomes a marring of it altogether; if all the rest should be deadened, what would it be good for? Show me a soul without a body. Do you not hear physicians say, The presence of disease sadly enfeebles the soul? How long will ye put off hanging yourselves? Is the body material? tell me. “To be sure, it is.” Then you ought to hate it. Why do you feed, why cherish it? You ought to get quit of this prison. 

But besides: “God cannot overcome matter, unless he (συμπλακἥ) implicate himself with it: for he cannot issue orders to it (O feebleness!) until he close with it, and (σταθἥ) take his stand (say you) through the whole of it!” And a king indeed does all by commanding; but God, not by commanding the evil! In short, if it were unparticipant of all good, it could not subsist at all. For Evil cannot subsist, unless it lay hold upon somewhat of the accidents of Virtue: so that if it had been heretofore all unmixed with virtue, it would have perished long ago: for such is the condition of evils. Let there be a profligate man, let him put upon himself no restraint whatever, will he live ten days? Let there be 17a robber, and devoid of all conscience in his dealings with every one, let him be such even to his fellow-robbers, will he be able to live? Let there be a thief, void of all shame, who knows not what blushing is, but steals openly in public. It is not in the nature of evils to subsist, unless they get some small share at least in good. So that hereupon, according to these men, God gave them their subsistence. Let there be a city of wicked men; will it stand? But let them be wicked, not only with regard to the good, but towards each other. Why, it is impossible such a city should stand. Truly, “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” (Rom. i. 22.) If bodily substance be evil, then all things visible exist idly, and in vain, both water and earth, and sun, and air; for air is also body, though not solid. It is in point then to say, “The wicked have told me foolish things.” (Ps. cxix. 85.) But let not us endure them, let us block up our ears against them. For there is, yea, there is, a resurrection of bodies. This the sepulchre which is at Jerusalem declares, this the pillar54 to which He was bound, when He was scourged. For, “We did eat and drink with Him,” it is said. Let us then believe in the Resurrection, and do things worthy of it, that we may attain to the good things which are to come, through Christ Jesus our Lord, with Whom to the Father, and the Holy Ghost together, be power, honor, now and for ever, world without end. Amen.

Doctors of The Church for September; John Chrysostom

Again, in John Chrysostom's commentary on the Acts, we see a progression of holiness, the calling of the Apostles to fast, pray, watch for the coming of the Holy Spirit. What better way to describe the Dark Night of the Soul than this waiting, this preparing for Christ?

For it cannot, it cannot be, that a man should enjoy the benefit of grace except he watch. Seest thou not what Elias saith to his disciple? “If thou see me when I am taken up” (2 Kings ii. 10), this that thou askest shall be done for thee. Christ also was ever wont to say unto those that came unto Him, “Believest thou?” For if we be not appropriated and made over to the thing given,20 neither do we greatly feel the benefit. So it was also in the case of Paul; grace did not come to him immediately, but three days intervened, during which he was blind; purified the while, and prepared by fear. For as those who dye the purple first season with other ingredients the cloth that is to receive the dye, that the bloom may not be fleeting;21 so in this instance God first takes order that the soul shall be thoroughly in earnest, and then pours forth His grace. On this account also, neither did He immediately send the Spirit, but on the fiftieth day. Now if any one ask, why we also do not baptize at that season of Pentecost? we may answer, that grace is the same now as then;22 but the mind becomes more elevated now, by being prepared through fasting. And the season too of Pentecost furnishes a not unlikely reason. What may that be? Our fathers held Baptism 8to be just the proper curb upon evil concupiscence, and a powerful lesson for teaching to be sober-minded even in a time of delights.
As if then we were banquetting with Christ Himself, and partaking of His table, let us do nothing at random, but let us pass our time in fastings, and prayers, and much sobriety of mind. For if a man who is destined to enter upon some temporal government, prepares himself all his life long, and that he may obtain some dignity, lays out his money, spends his time, and submits to endless troubles; what shall we deserve, who draw near to the kingdom of heaven with such negligence, and both show no earnestness before we have received, and after having received are again negligent? Nay, this is the very reason why we are negligent after having received, that we did not watch before we had received. Therefore many, after they have received, immediately have returned to their former vomit, and have become more wicked, and drawn upon themselves a more severe punishment; when having been delivered from their former sins, herein they have more grievously provoked the Judge, that having been delivered from so great a disease, still they did not learn sobriety, but that has happened unto them, which Christ threatened to the paralytic man, saying, “Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John v. 14): and which He also predicted of the Jews, that “the last state shall be worse than the first.” (Matt. xii. 45.) For if, saith He, showing that by their ingratitude they should bring upon them the worst of evils, “if I had not come, and spoken unto them, they had not had sin” (John xv. 22); so that the guilt of sins committed after these benefits is doubled and quadrupled, in that, after the honour put upon us, we show ourselves ungrateful and wicked. And the Laver of Baptism helps not a whit to procure for us a milder punishment. And consider: a man has gotten grievous sins by committing murder or adultery, or some other crime: these were remitted through Baptism. For there is no sin, no impiety, which does not yield and give place to this gift; for the Grace is Divine. A man has again committed adultery and murder; the former adultery is indeed done away, the murder forgiven, and not brought up again to his charge, “for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. xi. 29); but for those committed after Baptism he suffers a punishment as great as he would if both the former sins were brought up again, and many worse than these. For the guilt is no longer simply equal, but doubled and tripled.23 Look: in proof that the penalty of these sins is greater, hear what St. Paul says: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy, under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. x. 28, 29.)