As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Excerpts from C.S. Lewis Regarding the True Myth

If ever a myth had become a fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. And nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it . . . Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, man. This is not "a religion," nor "a philosophy." It is the summing up and actuality of them all.
- Surprised By Joy

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...now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn t mind it at all; again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself... I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels.

The reason was that in the Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meaning beyond my grasp even tho I could not say in cold prose what it meant.

Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God s myth where the others are mens myths: i. e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call real things. Therefore it is true, not in the sense of being a description of God (that no finite mind can take in) but in the sense of being the way in which God chooses to (or can) appear to our faculties.

The doctrines we get out of the true myth are of course less true: they are translations into our concepts and ideas of that which God has already expressed in a language more adequate, namely the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Does this amount to a belief in Christianity? At any rate I am now certain
  • That this Christian story is to be approached, in a sense, as I approach the other myths.
  • That is the most important and full of meaning. I am also nearly certain that it really happened.

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Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens - at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle...Those who do not know that this great myth became Fact when the Virgin conceived are, indeed, to be pitied. But Christians also need to be...reminded that what became Fact was a Myth, that it carries with it into the world of Fact all the properties of a myth. God is more than a god, not less; Christ is more than Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting in our theology.
- God in the Dock

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He [God] sent the human race what I call good dreams. I mean those queer stories scattered all through heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again, and by his death, has somehow given new life to men.
- Mere Christianity

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Death and re-birth - go down to go up - it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck in Nature, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies... The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God...The total pattern...is the real Death and Re- birth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and re-ascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation...The Corn-king is derived (through human imagination) from the facts of Nature, and the facts of Nature from her Creator; the Death and Re-birth pattern is in her because it was first in Him. On the other hand, elements of Nature-religion are strikingly absent from the teaching of Jesus and from the Judaic preparation which lead up to it precisely because in them Nature's Original is manifesting Itself.
- Miracles

St. Comgan and the Jewels

St. Comgan heard about a miser who owned a fabulous collection of jewels. The miser kept the jewels in a safe. Comgan called on the miser, and said: "I hear you have a fabulous collection of jewels. Would you allow me to see them?"

The miser replied: "It would be a pleasure. I haven't looked at them myself for many years, so I too shall enjoy seeing them." He opened the safe, took out a gold box and carefully placed the box on a table. He unlocked the box, and lifted the lid. Both Comgan and the miser stared with open mouths at the diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires which it contained. The miser dipped his hand in the box, and let the precious stones run through his fingers. Then after a few minutes he closed the box, and returned it to the safe.

"Thank you for giving me those jewels," Comgan said.

The miser replied: "I haven't given them to you; they belong to me."

Comgan said: "I have had as much pleasure as you from looking at them. So there is no difference between us - except that you have the expense and anxiety of buying and looking after them."

That day the miser gave away one jewel to every household in the town. There were just enough - with one left over for himself.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Phoenix" by D.H. Lawrence


Are you willing to be sponged out, erased, cancelled,
made nothing?
Are you willing to be made nothing?
dipped into oblivion?

If not, you will never really change.

The phoenix renews her youth
only when she is burnt, burnt alive, burnt down
to hot and flocculent ash.
Then the small stirring of a new small bub in the nest
with strands of down like floating ash
shows that she is renewing her youth like the eagle,
immortal bird.

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St. Comgan and the Grieving Widow

An old couple were admired by everyone in their village for the happiness of their marriage. They never quarreled, and were always loving and affectionate toward each other.

Eventually the husband died, and the wife was overcome with grief. Her children and her neighbors tried to console her, but to no avail. Weeks and months passed, and still the old woman was grieving and inconsolable; tears of grief rolled down her cheeks from morning till night.

St. Comgan heard about her. He asked one of his wealthy friends to lend him a ring with a precious jewel set in it. He took it to the old woman, and said to her: "I want you to find a family which has no sorrows, and give that family this ring."

The woman set off in search of a family with no sorrows. She visited every home in the region and talked to
every family. Finally she returned home, and gave the ring back to Comgan. Her grief had gone.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

St. Clement of Rome

The strong must make sure that they care for the weak.
The rich must be certain to give enough to supply all the needs of the poor.
The poor must thank God for supplying their needs . . .
We all need each other: the great need the small, the small need the great.
In our body, the head is useless without the feet and the feet without the head.
The tiniest limbs of our body are useful and necessary to the whole.

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St. Ephrem the Syrian's Hymn on Fasting


1.1
The is the fast of the First Born, the first of his victories.
Let us rejoice in his coming; for in fasting he has overcome.
Though he could have overcome by any means,
He revealed for us the strength hidden in fasting, Overcomer of All.
For by means of it a man can overcome that one who with fruit overcame Adam;
He became greedy and gobbled it. Blessed is the First-Born who encompassed
Our weakness with the wall of his great fasting.

Res:
Blessed is the King who adorned the Holy Church with Fasting, Prayer and Vigil.

1.2
This is the fast which exalts; which appeared from the First Born
So as to extol the younger ones. There is occasion for delight for the discerning ones in fasting;
When one sees how much he has grown. Fasting secretly purifies the soul
So it can gaze on God and grow by the vision of Him.
For the weight that is from the earth, bends it back to the earth.
Blessed is he who gave us fasts,
The sheer wings by which we fly to him.

1.3
Fasting is bright and beautiful for any who bright enough
To gaze on God. The Turbid One, stirred up by anything
Cannot fix the eye on that Clear One. He who possesses a clear eye
He can gaze upon him; as much as it is given to him to gaze.
Instead of the clarifying wine, let us clarify our thought
So that we will be able to see the Clear One
Who overcame the Evil Oneby means of fasting, that Disturber of All.

1.4
This is the fast through which greed escapes
The peoples at the top of the mountain ; clothed in fasting he overcame the Greedy One.
Who had clothed himself with the food of Adam's house.
The Lord of Victories gave us his weapon, he ascended on high to be an observer.
Who would not run to the weapon by which God overcame
It is a shameful thing, my brothers, to be bested by the weapon
Which overcomes and causes to overcome all creation.

1.5
Because the enemy is not visible, let us purge our thinking so that he sees that we see him.
He is able to steal some of those whom he sees
That they have not noticed him.
When a soul undertakes a fast,
The the fast bears it and gives it back to its counterpart.
Amid the volleys of sharpened arrows, hiddren from view, the hidden eye
Is polished to see from whence they come.

1.6
This is the instructive fast, it teaches the athlete the ways of the contest.
Draw near to it, study, learn to struggle shrewdly.
Behold he instructed us to fast with our mouths and hearts,
Let us not fast from bread and think thoughts
In which the hidden poison of death is hidden.
Let us confess on the fast day the First Born
Who gave us the word of life to meditate on.

1.7
Let the scriptures be for us like a mirror, let us see in them our fast
For the Bible descriminates between fasts and prayer.
It chooses one type of fast and rejects another
Some fasters appease God and others anger him.
There is a prayer which is sinful, and another which is the medicine of life
O Lord let us rejoice in our fast
As he rejoiced, my brothers, in his own fast.

1.8
The fast is not defiling for the Holy One, for through it he descended and shone
Another mixing made the fast defiled, though itself is pure.
Examine nature! Are not desirable fruit
Polluted by loathsome fruit?
Our thoughts are repelled by them though they be washed many times.
Blessed is the Pure One who receives those fruits
Which all the penitent having purified them give to him.

1.9
The Troubler mixes filth with our Clarity,
So as to make the first-fruits of our prayer and fasting hateful.
It is possible by his jealousy, that our gift be rebuked.
Take away your deceits from your fasts, remove mockery from your praise.
May your voices wash your mouths from lies.
Allow us, O First Born in your mercy
To uproot hidden weeds from our thoughts

1.10
Do not be hindered O Simple Ones regarding that Deceiver who robs Fasters.
For when he sees someone abstaining from bread,
He is filled with anger. When he sees someone standing to pray
He fills his mind with one distraction after another.
He steals from his heart the prayer of his mouth,
O Lord of ours give us an eye to see,
How he steals the truth in deceit.

1.11
Come be gathered, my brothers, on this fast day let us sit and marvel at how evil is the Evil One
When he makes a transaction (gives and takes), he impoverishes us by what is his.
And does he become wealthy through what is ours; the truth that he steals suits him not.
The deceit he gives to us does not avail.
It is similar to the whore his companion, who is neither ours nor his.
Judge O Lord, between us and him,
For it is through you that Solomon judged the unclean women.

1.12
Let us seek the trace of truth on the fast day; Let us go forth by it to the place of abodes
For the Blind People run, on a fast day with pride and wandering
Though there is a fast in their mouth, yet an idol is in the heart;
Prayer is on their lips, but divination in their heart
Their stomach is devoid of bread, but full of lies;
Though they wash their hands all day,
Hidden blood still screams against them.

1.13
Blessed is he who endured and sustained and his head is crowned in exaltation.
With a bold voice, as one who deserves a payment, he demands his wage
He is not like me, who is too weak to fast, too lowly for the vigil
The first to be overcome. My enemy possesses skill
When he overcomes me, he lets me rise that he might again cast me low.
O Sea of mercies give me a handful of mercies

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"Weeping with Christ" and other sayins of St. Isaac

Do not despise the sinner for we are all guilty.
If, for love of God, you rise up against him, mourn for him instead.
Why do you despise him?
Despise his sins but pray for him so that you may be like Christ,
who did not get annoyed with sinners but prayed for them.
Can't you see how he wept over Jerusalem?
For we, too, have been duped by the devil more than once.
So why despise him whom the devil, who mocks us all, has deceived just like us?
Why, O man, despise the sinner?
Is it because he is not as just as you are yourself?
But what happens to your justice from the moment you are without love?
Why did you not weep for him?
Instead, you persecute him.
It is through ignorance that certain people get upset,
believing themselves to have discernment into the deeds of sinners.

Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.
Be crucified, but do not crucify others.
Se slandered, but do not slander others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.
Suffer with the sick.
Be afflicted with sinners.
Exult with those who repent.
Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.
Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.
Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.
Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.
And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.


What is a merciful heart?
It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds,
for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists.
By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance.
By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart,
and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled
and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation.
For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts,
for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him,
that they be protected and receive mercy.
And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles
because of the great compassion that burns without measure
in a heart that is in the likeness of God.


The person who is genuinely charitable not only gives charity out of his own possessions,
but gladly tolerates injustice from others and forgives them.
Whoever lays down his soul for his brother acts generously,
rather than the person who demonstrates his generosity by his gifts.


God is not One who requites evil, but who sets evil right.
Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness.
The person who lives in love reaps the fruit of life from God,
and while yet in this world, even now breathes the air of the resurrection.
In love did God bring the world into existence;
in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state,
and in love will the world be swallowed up
in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things;
in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised.

Question: When is a person sure of having arrived at purity?
Answer: When that person considers all human beings are good, and no created thing appears impure or defiled. Then a person is truly pure in heart.


Love is sweeter than life.
Sweeter still, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb
is the awareness of God whence love is born.
Love is not loath to accept the hardest of deaths for those it loves.
Love is the child of knowledge.
Lord, fill my heart with eternal life.



As for me I say that those who are tormented in hell
are tormented by the invasion of love.
What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love?
Those who feel they have sinned against love
bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments.
The suffering with which sinning against love
afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment.
It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love.
Love is offered impartially.
But by its very power it acts in two ways.
It torments sinners, as happens here on earth
when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful.
And it gives joy to those who have been faithful.


That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse.
But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.


If zeal had been appropriate for putting humanity right,
why did God the Word clothe himself in the body,
using gentleness and humility in order to bring the world back to his Father?


Sin is the fruit of free will.
There was a time when sin did not exist,
and there will be a time when it will not exist.


God’s recompense to sinners is that,
instead of a just recompense,
God rewards them with resurrection.


O wonder!
The Creator clothed in a human being enters the house of tax collectors and prostitutes.
Thus the entire universe, through the beauty of the sight of him,
was drawn by his love to the single confession of God, the Lord of all.


Will God, if I ask, forgive me these things
by which I am pained and by whose memory I am tormented,
things by which, though I abhor them, I go on backsliding?
Yet after they have taken place the pain they give me
is even greater than that of a scorpion’s sting.
Though I abhor them, I am still in the middle of them,
and when I repent of them with suffering I wretchedly return to them again.


This is how many God-fearing people think,
people who foster virtue and are pricked with the suffering of compunction,
who mourn over their sin;
They live between sin and repentance all the time.
Let us not be in doubt, O fellow humanity, concerning the hope of our salvation,
seeing that the One who bore sufferings for our sakes is very concerned about our salvation;
God’s mercifulness is far more extensive than we can conceive,
God’s grace is greater than what we ask for.


When we find love, we partake of heavenly bread
and are made strong without labor and toil.
The heavenly bread is Christ,
who came down from heaven and gave life to the world.
This is the nourishment of angels.
The person who has found love eats and drinks Christ every day and every hour
and is thereby made immortal. …
When we hear Jesus say, “Ye shall eat and drink at the table of my kingdom,”
what do we suppose we shall eat, if not love?
Love, rather than food and drink, is sufficient to nourish a person.
This is the wine “which maketh glad the heart.”
Blessed is the one who partakes of this wine!
Licentious people have drunk this wine and become chaste;
sinners have drunk it and have forgotten the pathways of stumbling;
drunkards have drunk this wine and become fasters;
the rich have drunk it and desired poverty,
the poor have drunk it and been enriched with hope;
the sick have drunk it and become strong;
the unlearned have taken it and become wise.


Repentance is given us as grace after grace,
for repentance is a second regeneration by God.
That of which we have received an earnest by baptism,
we receive as a gift by means of repentance.
Repentance is the door of mercy, opened to those who seek it.
By this door we enter into the mercy of God,
and apart from this entrance we shall not find mercy.


Blessed is God who uses corporeal objects continually
to draw us close in a symbolic way to a knowledge of God’s invisible nature.
O name of Jesus, key to all gifts, open up for me the great door to your treasure-house,
that I may enter and praise you with the praise that comes from the heart.


O my Hope, pour into my heart the inebriation that consists in the hope of you.
O Jesus Christ, the resurrection and light of all worlds,
place upon my soul’s head the crown of knowledge of you;
open before me all of a sudden the door of mercies,
cause the rays of your grace to shine out in my heart.


O Christ, who is covered with light as though with a garment,
who for my sake stood naked in front of Pilate,
clothe me with that might which you caused to overshadow the saints,
whereby they conquered this world of struggle.
May your Divinity, Lord, take pleasure in me,
and lead me above the world to be with you.


I give praise to your holy Nature, Lord,
for you have made my nature a sanctuary for your hiddenness
and a tabernacle for your holy mysteries,
a place where you can dwell,
and a holy temple for your Divinity.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fare the Well - Free, O Lord

+ Fare thee well in Christ. Peace be with thee. Amen.

As thy soul goes forth from this world, let it go forth in peace.
In the Name of God the Father Almighty Who created thee.
In the Name of Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God Who suffered for thee.
In the Name of the Holy Spirit Who is poured forth in thee.
In the Name of the Angels and Archangels,
Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles,
Innocents, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins,
and all of the souls of the Saints who are pleasing to God.

Today mayest thou be placed with them in peace,
may thy place and habitation be in the Holy Heavenly Jerusalem.
May Saint Michael the Archangel, who was meritorious to lead the heavenly armies, take thee up.
May the Holy Angels lead thee and guide thee into the Heavenly Jerusalem.
May Saint Peter the Apostle to whom the Lord handed down the keys to the heavenly kingdom, take thee up.
Go forth in peace, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
Who will illuminate thee in life eternal and raise thee in the first resurrection in the newest Day.

Lord Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd,
receive the soul of Thy servant N. in peace,
and forgive all of his (her) sins.
Receive, O Lord, Thy servant in the good,
and free his (her) soul from all the dangers of hell,
and from the snares of punishments, and from all tribulations.

Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Noah from danger.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Elijah and Enoch from tasting death in the world.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Abraham through faith and believing.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Lot from Sodom and the flaming fire.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Isaac from the hand of his father Abraham.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Jacob through the benediction of Thy majesty.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Moses from the hand of Pharaoh, king of the Egyptians.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Job from his sufferings.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Jonah from the belly of the whale.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free David from the hand of Saul the king, and Goliath,
and from all of the chains of his sins.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Daniel from the Lion's den.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free three youths, from the fiery furnace
and the hand of the iniquitous king.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Suzanna from false accusation.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free the human race by Thy Passion.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Peter and Paul from prison.
Free, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant,
as Thou didst free Thecla from the three torments.

Thus be pleased to free, O Lord, the soul of this human being,
and allow him to dwell with Thee in the heavenly good things of Thy kingdom,
Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns unto ages of ages. Amen.

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