Chers amis Aloho m'barekh.
Après la Fête Patronale à N-D des Grâces
et Saint Ubald en notre paroisse des Charentes dimanche dernier et des visites aux familles de la région,
*je partirai demain mercredi vers Nantes où je ferai plusieurs visites avant la
*permanence pastorale de Jeudi (Messe à 18h ).
*Vendredi, en remontant au Monastère (en Normandie ) je visiterai les familles sur Saumur et sa région. VEUILLEZ VOUS INSCRIRE . . .
N'oubliez pas que
-dimanche et lundi (21, 22) ce sera le WE de Pèlerinage à Ste Rita et St Charbel,
-Jeudi 25, l'Ascension ( Mon 36 ème anniversaire de Sacerdoce ) et
-le 4 Juin la Pentecôte. . . .
(Du 25 au 4 Juin, "Retraite de délivrance et de guérison intérieure au Monastère )
Je vous embrasse fraternellement dans le Christ notre Seigneur. Union de prières, Aloho m'barekh ( Dieu vous bénisse ) !
+Mor Philipose, métropolite , Jauldes ce 16. V. 17
(St Ubald chassant les démons d'une possédée)
Livre de l'Ecclésiastique 44,16-17.22-23.45,3.7.15.
Voici le grand pontife, qui pendant sa vie, fut agréable à Dieu,
et, au temps de la colère est devenu la réconciliation des hommes : il ne s'en est pas trouvé de semblable à lui dans l'observance de la loi du Très-Haut.
C'est pourquoi il a juré de le faire croître dans son peuple.
Le Seigneur a béni en lui toutes le nations, et a confirmé en lui son Alliance.
Il eut égard à lui dans ses bénédictions, il lui a continué sa miséricorde, et il trouva grâce devant le Seigneur.
Par sa parole, il a fait cesser des prodiges. Il l'a glorifié devant les rois, il lui a donné un commandement devant son peuple et il lui a montré sa gloire.
Il a établi avec lui une alliance éternelle, et lui a donné le sacerdoce suprême.
Il l'a rendu heureux dans la gloire, pour exercer le sacerdoce, louer son nom et lui offrir un encens d'agréable odeur.
Évangile de Jésus Christ selon saint Matthieu 25,14-23.
En ce temps-là, Jésus dit à ses disciples cette parabole : Partant pour un voyage, un homme appela ses serviteurs et leur remit ses biens.
A l'un il donna cinq talents, à un autre deux, à un autre un, à chacun selon sa capacité, et il partit en voyage. Aussitôt,
celui qui avait reçu les cinq talents s'en alla les faire valoir, et il en gagna cinq autres.
De la même manière, celui qui avait reçu les deux, en gagna lui aussi deux autres.
Mais celui qui en avait reçu un s'en alla faire un trou en terre, et il y cacha l'argent de son maître.
Longtemps après, le maître de ces serviteurs revient et leur fait rendre compte.
S'avançant, celui qui avait reçu les cinq talents en présenta cinq autres, en disant : " Maître, vous m'aviez remis cinq talents ; voici cinq autres talents que j'ai gagnés. "
Son maître lui dit : " Bien, serviteur bon et fidèle ; en peu tu as été fidèle, je te préposerai à beaucoup ; entre dans la joie de ton maître. "
S'avançant aussi, celui qui avait reçu les deux talents dit : " Maître, vous m'aviez remis deux talents ; voici deux autres talents que j'ai gagnés. "
Son maître lui dit : " Bien, serviteur bon et fidèle, en peu tu as été fidèle, je te préposerai à beaucoup ; entre dans la joie de ton maître. "
Par Dom Columba Marmion
(1858-1923), Père-abbé de l'Ordre Bénédictin, béatifié dans l'Eglise Romaine-catholique. La source de la paix
L'union à Dieu dans le Christ d'après les lettres de direction de Dom Marmion (Dom R. Thibaut, Eds DDB, p. 13, rev.)
Je désire beaucoup que vous puissiez acquérir le calme et la paix.
Le meilleur moyen d'acquérir ce calme est une résignation absolue à la sainte Volonté de Dieu :
-c'est là la région de la paix...
Tâchez de ne rien désirer, de n'attacher votre cœur à rien sans l'avoir auparavant présenté à Dieu et placé dans le "Sacré Cœur de Jésus"*, afin de le vouloir en Lui et avec Lui.
Une des principales raisons pour lesquelles nous perdons la paix de l'âme est que nous désirons quelque chose, que nous attachons notre cœur à quelque objet, sans savoir si Dieu le veut ou non ; et alors, quand un obstacle s'oppose à nos désirs, nous nous troublons, nous sortons de la conformité à la sainte Volonté, et nous perdons la paix.
*Les guillemets sont de moi pour souligner cette expression typiquement Romaine-catholique qui a pour but d'exprimer l'Amour du Christ, le Verbe Incarné pour son Père et notre Père, pour Ses frères humains.
SAINT(S) DU JOUR:
Évêque et confesseur
Saint Ubald, de l'Ordre des Chanoines réguliers de saint Augustin (Nom donné en Occident aux Monastères essentiellement formés de Clercs) où il rétablit l'obéissance, fut contraint, en 1128, par le Pape Honorius II, qui l'estimait beaucoup, d'accepter la consécration épiscopale et de prendre le gouvernement de l'église de Gubbio, sa ville natale, en Italie.
Relique de St Ubald en notre Paroisse Syro-Orthodoxe des Charentes.(Jauldes)
Il continua à mener une vie très austère et se dévoua corps et âme à ses diocésains. II mourut le jour de la Pentecôte en 1160.
On invoque volontiers son secours contre les mauvais Esprits.
Son tombeau se trouve dans sa ville natale.
Son corps s’est conservé jusqu’à nos jours sans corruption.
Bishop and Confessor
Saint Ubald, of the Order of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine (Name given in the West to the monasteries essentially formed of Clercs) where he restored obedience, was constrained, in 1128, by Pope Honorius II, To accept the episcopal consecration and to take the government of the church of Gubbio, his native city, in Italy.
He continued to lead a very austere life and devoted himself wholeheartedly to his diocesans. He died on the day of Pentecost in 1160.
His help against evil spirits is readily invoked.
His tomb is in his hometown.
His body has been preserved to the present day without corruption.
Bispo e Confessor
Saint-Ubalde, da Ordem dos Cônegos Regulares de Santo Agostinho (nome dado aos Mosteiros Oeste essencialmente formados dos Clérigos) onde ele restaura a obediência, foi forçado, em 1128, pelo Papa Honório II, que pensou altamente de, para aceitar a consagração episcopal e para tornar o governo da igreja de Gubbio, sua cidade natal na Itália.
Ele continuou a levar uma vida muito austera e dedicou-se de corpo e alma à sua diocese. Ele morreu no dia de Pentecostes em 1160.
De bom grado evoca sua ajuda contra os maus espíritos.
Seu túmulo está em sua cidade natal.
Seu corpo foi preservada até hoje sem corrupção.
(† v. 600)
Honoré naquit au village de Port-le-Grand, en Ponthieu, au début du VIe siècle.
Quand ce jeune homme dissipé annonça à sa nourrice qu'il voulait devenir prêtre, elle était en train de faire cuire son pain.
"Et quand ma pelle aura des feuilles, tu seras évêque !" se moqua la brave femme.
Sous ses yeux ébahis, la pelle se mit à reverdir.
Évêque d'Amiens très populaire, il le fut encore plus après sa mort.
Par exemple, une procession avec la châsse contenant ses reliques fit venir la pluie en temps de sécheresse.
On dit qu'un jour, en pleine Messe, il vit le Christ venir consacrer lui-même le pain eucharistique.
Depuis que des boulangers et pâtissiers de Paris décidèrent de créer une confrérie qui se retrouverait dans une chapelle lui étant dédiée, il est leur saint patron.
Honore nasceu na aldeia de Port-le-Grand, em Ponthieu, no início do século sexto.
Quando este jovem dissipadas anunciou a sua enfermeira que queria ser padre, ela estava indo para cozinhar pão.
"E quando vai deixa minha pá, você vai bispo!" riu a boa mulher.
Sob seus olhos, a escavadeira começou a verde novamente.
Bispo de Amiens muito popular, foi ainda mais depois de sua morte.
Por exemplo, uma procissão com o caixão contendo suas relíquias trouxe chuva em épocas de seca.
Diz-se que um dia no meio da missa, ele viu Cristo vindo dedicar o pão eucarístico.
Desde padeiros e confeiteiros de Paris decidiu criar uma fraternidade que iria acabar por ser em uma capela dedicada a ele, ele é seu santo padroeiro ..
Honore was born in the village of Port-le-Grand, in Ponthieu, at the beginning of the sixth century.
When this dissipated young man announced to his nurse that he wanted to become a priest, she was cooking her bread.
"And when my shovel has leaves, you will be a bishop!" Laughed the brave woman.
Beneath his bewildered eyes, the shovel began to re-green.
Bishop of Amiens very popular, he was even more so after his death.
For example, a procession with the shrine containing its relics caused the rain to come in times of drought.
It is said that one day, in full Mass, he saw Christ come to consecrate himself the Eucharistic bread.
Since bakers and confectioners in Paris decided to create a brotherhood that would end up in a chapel dedicated to him, he is their patron saint.
Saint Brendan le voyageur,
patron des marins
Tropaire ton 1
Né dans la verte Hibernie,tu fus éduqué*
Par sainte Itta à l'école de saint Jarlat.*
Prêtre, tu rassemblas autour de toi des moines;*
Et tu créas le monastère de Clonfert,*
Après avoir pérégriné sur l'océan.*
Saint Brendan, prie Dieu de nous accueillir au Ciel!
Saint Brendan est né en 484 à Ciarraighe Luachra près du port de Tralee, dans le comté de Kerry, dans la province de Munster, dans le sud-ouest de l'Irlande. Il fut baptisé à Tubrid, près d’Ardfert, par Saint Erc. Pendant cinq ans, il fut éduqué par Sainte Ita, "la Brigitte de Munster", et il compléta ses études avec Saint Erc, qui l'ordonna prêtre en 512. Entre les années 512 et 530 saint Brendan construisit des cellules monastiques à Ardfert, et, au pied du mont Brandon, Shanakeel -Seana Cill, habituellement traduit par "la vieille église", qu'on appelle aussi Baalynevinoorach.
De là, il est censé avoir entrepris son fameux voyage de sept années pour le Paradis. Les anciens calendriers irlandais ont attribué une fête spéciale pour les "Egressio familiae S. Brendani", le 22 mars, et saint Angus le Culdee, dans sa litanie composée à la fin du VIIIe siècle, invoque "les soixante qui ont accompagné St. Brendan dans sa quête de la Terre Promise ".
(Saint Brendan était un higoumène (Père-Abbé) irlandais qui a navigué vers l'ouest avec son groupe de moines marin dans un coracle gréé en carré, en cuir sur un cadre en vannerie. Ils ont probablement été à la recherche d'un paradis terrestre, réputé être dans les îles "de la Vierge." Ils eurent d’étonnantes aventures, ils signalèrent avoir vu des montagnes enflammées, très probablement les volcans d'Islande. Continuant vers l'ouest, ils ont trouvé d'autres terres, dont l'une était probablement Terre-Neuve, ce qui les place parmi les premiers découvreurs de l'Amérique. Bien que les vents dominants aient été contre eux, ils réussirent à retourner en Irlande. Saint Brendan vécut jusques à 93 ans et fonda plusieurs monastères.)
Les hagiographes connaissent saint Brendan par quatre sources principales: la vie irlandaise, les Vies latines, la version en latin du Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis et de nombreuses versions en langue vernaculaires de son voyage dans les langues émergentes de l'Europe, collectivement connues comme le Voyage de Brendan. Nous connaissons aussi saint Brendan par des mentions fréquentes faisant allusion à lui dans la vie d'autres saints et dans les calendriers de nombreux martyrologes qui ont survécu en Irlande et en Ecosse.
Il y a, cependant, très peu d'informations sûres sur sa vie, si ce n’est au moins les dates approximatives de sa naissance et de son décès, et les récits de certains événements de sa vie, qui se trouvent dans les annales et les généalogies irlandaises. Les principaux travaux consacrés au saint et à sa légende sont une Vie de Brendan, dans plusieurs versions latines et les versions irlandaises (Vita Brendani / Betha Brenainn) et le plus connu "Voyage de l’higoumène saint Brendan" (Navigatio sancti Brendani abattis). Malheureusement, la vie et le voyage fournissent peu de récits fiables de sa vie et de ses voyages; ils témoignent, cependant, de l'évolution de son culte dans les siècles après sa mort. Un problème supplémentaire est que la relation précise entre la Vita et les traditions de la Navigatio est incertaine.
Quand, exactement, la tradition de la Vita a commencé, cela est incertain. Les copies survivantes ne sont pas plus anciennes que la fin du XIIe siècle, mais les chercheurs suggèrent qu'une version de la Vie a été composé avant l'an 1000. La Navigatio a probablement été écrite avant la Vita, peut-être dans la seconde moitié du VIIIe siècle.
Toute tentative de reconstruire les détails de la vie du réel Brendan ou de comprendre la nature de la légende de Brendan doit être fondée principalement sur les annales irlandaises et les généalogies et sur les différentes versions de la Vita Brendani.
Saint Brendan est surtout renommé pour son voyage légendaire à l'île des Bienheureux comme cela est décrit au IXe siècle dans le Voyage de Saint Brendan le Navigateur. De nombreuses versions existent, qui racontent de quelle façon il partit sur l'océan Atlantique avec les soixante pèlerins (d'autres versions disent quatorze, et trois non-croyants qui se joignirent à eux à la dernière minute) à la recherche du Jardin d'Eden. On dit que l'un de ces compagnons était Saint Malo, l'homonyme de Saint Malo. Si cela est arrivé, cela aurait eu lieu entre 512 et 530 après Jésus-Christ, avant son Voyage à l'île de Grande-Bretagne. Lors de son voyage, Brendan est censé avoir vu l'île de saint. Brendan, une île bénie, recouverte de végétation. Il a également rencontré un monstre marin, une aventure qu'il partagea avec son contemporain saint Columba.
Brendan voyaga au Pays de Galles et à l'île sainte d'Iona, au large de la côte ouest de l'Écosse; retournant en Irlande, il fonda un monastère à Annaghdown, où il passa le reste de ses jours. Il a également fondé un couvent à Annaghdown pour sa sœur Briga. Il a été reconnu comme saint par l'Eglise irlandaise, et sa fête est célébrée le 16 mai. Après avoir établi l'évêché d’Ardfert, saint Brendan alla à Thomond, et fonda un monastère à Inis-da-Druim (maintenant Coney Island), dans la paroisse actuelle de Killadysert, dans le comté de Clare, vers l'an 550. Il a ensuite voyagé au Pays de Galles, et de là à Iona, car on dit qu’il aurait laissé des traces de son zèle apostolique à Kil-Brandon (près d’Oban) et à Kil-Brennan Sound. Après une mission de trois ans en Grande-Bretagne, il retourna en Irlande, et fit encore plus de prosélytisme dans diverses parties du Leinster, en particulier au Dysart (comté de Kilkenny), à Killiney (Tubberboe), et à Brandon Hill. Il a établi des églises à Inchiquin, dans le comté de Galway et à Inishglora, dans le comté de Mayo. Il est mort vers 577, à Annaghdown, alors qu'il rendait visite à sa sœur Briga. Craignant que, après sa mort, ses disciples pourrait essayer de prendre une partie de ses reliques, Brendan avait arrangé avant de mourir d'avoir son corps ramené à Clonfert en secret, caché dans un chariot à bagages à destination du monastère. Il fut enterré dans la cathédrale de Clonfert.
Cependant, les activités de saint Brendan comme homme d'Église, ont été faites à l’ouest de l'Irlande, où se trouvent la plupart de ses fondations importantes, à savoir à Ardfert (Comté de Kerry), Inishdadroum (Comté de Clare), Annaghdown (Comté de Galway), et Clonfert (Comté de Galway). Son nom se perpétue dans de nombreux noms de lieux et de sites le long de la côte irlandaise (par exemple, Brandon Hill, Brandon, Point le mont Brendan, Brandon Well, Brandon Bay, Brandon Head).
La fondation la plus célèbre de saint Brendan fut, en l'an 563, la cathédrale de Clonfert, dans laquelle il a nommé Saint Moinenn comme Prieur. St Brendan a été enterré à Clonfert.
Le groupe de ruines ecclésiastiques restant à Ardfert est l'un des plus intéressants et instructifs qui existe actuellement en Irlande. Les ruines de l'ancienne cathédrale de saint Brendan, et de ses annexes, chantreries et chapelles détachées, forment un reliquaire très complet de l'architecture religieuse irlandaise, dans ses divers ordres et âges, depuis le simple et solide Danhliag du septième ou huitième siècle, aux quelques exemples tardifs et plus décorés du gothique médiéval. La cathédrale, telle qu'elle existe aujourd'hui, ou plutôt telle qu'elle existait avant, a finalement été démantelée en l'an 1641.
(Version française Claude Lopez-Ginisty)
Chez Dieu, il n’y a de haine pour personne, mais seulement un amour qui
car chaque être crée est précieux aux yeux de Dieu qui prend
soin de chaque créature, et chacun trouve en lui un Père plein d’amour.
« C’est un cœur, explique en effet saint Isaac,
qui brûle pour toute la création, les hommes, les oiseaux, les animaux, les démons
et pour toute chose crée.
Et pour leur restauration, les yeux d’un homme de miséricorde verse des larmes abondantes.
Du fait de sa miséricorde forte et véhémente, qui saisit son cœur et de sa grande
compassion, son cœur s’humilie et il ne peut pas supporter d’entendre ou de
voir des blessures ou la moindre tristesse dans la création.
C’est pourquoi il offre continuellement des prières accompagnées de larmes même pour des bêtes
sans raison, pour les ennemis de la vérité, et pour ceux qui le blessent, afin
qu’ils soient protégés et obtiennent miséricorde.
Et de même, il prie aussi pour la famille des reptiles, en raison de la grande compassion qui brûle démesurément dans son cœur fait à l’image de Dieu ».
Shlom lekh bthoolto Mariam/ Hail, O Virgin Mary/
maliath taibootho/ full of grace/
moran a'amekh - the Lord is with thee/
mbarakhto at bneshey/ blessed art thou among women/
wambarakhoo feero dabkharsekh Yeshue/ and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus/
O qadeeshto Mariam/ Holy Mary/
yoldath aloho/ Mother of God/
saloy hlofain hatoyeh/ pray for us sinners/
nosho wabsho'ath mawtan./ now and at the hour of our death./
Je vous salue, Marie pleine de grâces ; le Seigneur est avec vous. Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes et Jésus, le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni. Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, priez pour nous pauvres pécheurs, maintenant et à l'heure de notre mort. Amîn.
PRIERE POUR LES VOCATIONS:
Père, faites se lever parmi les chrétiens
de nombreuses et saintes vocations au sacerdoce,
qui maintiennent la foi vivante
et gardent une mémoire pleine de gratitude de Votre Fils Jésus,
par la prédication de sa parole
et l'administration des sacrements,
par lesquels Vous renouvelez continuellement vos fidèles dans la Grâce du Saint Esprit.
Donnez-nous de saints ministres de Votre autel,
qui soient des célébrants attentifs et fervents de l'eucharistie,
sacrement du don suprême du Christ pour la rédemption du monde, sacrement de la pérennité de Sa présence comme "l'Emmanuel", Dieu présent au milieu et pour le salut de Son Peuple.
Appelez des ministres de Votre miséricorde,
qui dispensent la joie de Votre pardon
par le sacrement de la réconciliation.
Père, puisse notre Église Syro-Orthodoxe francophone accueillir avec joie
les nombreuses inspirations de l'Esprit de Votre Fils
et, qu'en étant docile à ses enseignements,
elle prenne soin des vocations au ministère sacerdotal
et à la vie consacrée.
Soutenez nos Pères dans la Foi, nos Métropolites,les évêques, les prêtres, les diacres,
les personnes consacrées et tous les baptisés dans le Christ, à l'intérieur et à l'extérieur de notre Tradition Syro-Orthodoxe
afin qu'ils accomplissent fidèlement leur mission
au service de l'Évangile.
Nous Vous le demandons par le Christ notre Seigneur, Votre Fils bien-aimé qui vit et règne avec Vous et le Saint Esprit pour les siècles sans fin.
Ô Marie, Mère de Miséricorde et Reine des apôtres, priez pour nous !
ORAÇÃO PELAS VOCAÇÕES:
Pai, deixe repousar entre os cristãos
numerosas e santas vocações ao sacerdócio,
que mantenham viva a fé
e manter uma memória cheia de gratidão Seu Filho Jesus,
pela pregação de sua palavra
e administrar os sacramentos,
pelo qual você renovar continuamente os vossos fiéis na graça do Espírito Santo.
Dê-nos santos ministros do vosso altar,
que estão celebrantes atentos e entusiastas da Eucaristia,
sacramento do dom supremo de Cristo para a redenção do mundo, o sacramento da sustentabilidade da sua presença como "Emmanuel", Deus presente entre e para a salvação de Seu povo.
Chamar ministros de sua mercê,
que fornecem a alegria de Seu perdão
através do Sacramento de reconciliação.
Pai, que nossa Igreja siro-ortodoxo falando alegremente boas-vindas
as numerosas inspirações do Espírito de Seu Filho
e, que sendo obedientes a seus ensinamentos,
ela cuida das vocações ao ministério sacerdotal
e à vida consagrada.
Apoiar nossos pais na fé, nossos metropolitanas, bispos, sacerdotes, diáconos,
pessoas consagradas e todos os baptizados em Cristo, dentro e fora da nossa tradição siro-ortodoxo
de modo que eles fielmente cumprir a sua missão
o serviço do Evangelho.
Você Nós vos pedimos por Cristo, nosso Senhor, Seu amado Filho, que vive e reina contigo eo Espírito Santo para todo o sempre.
Ó Maria, Mãe de Misericórdia e Rainha dos Apóstolos, rogai por nós!
Isaac le Syrien, la fraternité universelle
Né vers 630-640 dans l'actuel Qatar, Isaac le Syrien a été choisi pour être évêque Ninive. Il abdique et se retire dans le monastère de Rabban Shabour (sud-ouest de l’Iran actuel). Il a écrit de nombreux discours. Publié le 24 mars 2017.
Dans quel contexte a-t-il vécu ?
Le Proche-Orient, berceau du christianisme, est aussi la région où le christianisme originel a éclaté en divers dogmes, puis en diverses Églises, du fait des circonstances géopolitiques et des querelles théologiques sur la vraie nature du Christ. Ainsi, au VIIe siècle, les chrétiens de Mésopotamie et de Syrie – régions où a vécu saint Isaac le Syrien – appartiennent à des Églises indépendantes ayant reconnu ou non le concile d’Éphèse de 431 (qui a défini l’union des deux natures, humaine et divine, du Christ, et donné le titre de Theotokos, « mère de Dieu », à Marie). D’autres Églises, dites nestoriennes, mettaient l’accent sur l’humanité du Christ. Organisées autour d’un patriarche, elles partageaient suffisamment de points communs pour se reconnaître une même identité en temps de crise : c’est le cas lors de la conquête arabo-musulmane de la Syrie en 635. Les conquérants n’engagent pas de politique d’islamisation forcée et offrent aux chrétiens partout majoritaires – même si l’on compte aussi quelques minorités juives – le statut de dhimmi (protégé). Les monastères qui se rallient aux musulmans obtiennent en récompense une diminution du kharâj (impôt foncier).
Que sait-on de la vie d’Isaac le Syrien ?
De l’homme lui-même, on ne sait presque rien, sinon qu’il serait né dans la région du Bet Qatraye (l’actuel Qatar) vers 630-640 et que, dès sa jeunesse, son renom de sainteté se répandit dans l’Empire perse. Au point qu’il fut choisi par le patriarche de l’Église syro-orientale (nestorienne), Mar Guiwarguis Ier (658-680), pour devenir l’évêque de Ninive (l’actuelle Mossoul, en Irak), «probablement pour régler une situation difficile», précise le théologien italien Sabino Chialà, de la communauté monastique de Bose.
Isaac fut consacré, vers 660-670, par le patriarche. Mais il abdiqua quelques mois plus tard. « Les deux notices que l’on possède à propos de son départ de l’épiscopat divergent quant aux dates et aux motivations », précise Marie-Anne Vannier, rédactrice en chef de la revue Connaissance des Pères de l’Église (1) et professeur de théologie à l’Université de Lorraine à Metz. Dans un cas, il s’agirait d’un départ volontaire, après que deux fidèles repoussèrent ses conseils évangéliques. Dans un autre cas, il s’agirait d’un départ sous la pression de confrères évêques, jaloux de son prestige et opposés à sa doctrine spirituelle.
Isaac se retira alors dans le monastère de Rabban Shabour, dans le Bet Huzaye (sud-ouest de l’Iran actuel), où il vécut dans un ermitage isolé. Selon Marie-Anne Vannier, on venait de loin consulter l’homme de Dieu, «réputé pour son humilité et sa frugalité». Du fait de sa lecture assidue des livres saints et de ses larmes abondantes, sa vue s’usa précocement. Devenu aveugle, il continua de dicter ses réflexions à ses disciples.
Qu’a-t-il écrit ?
Ce que l’on connaît aujourd’hui de la production littéraire d’Isaac consiste en trois collections de discours. La première, composée de 82 discours connus depuis toujours et traduits très tôt en grec, arabe, géorgien, slave, éthiopien et latin (puis, dès le XIVe-XVe siècle, en italien, français, portugais, catalan, castillan… jusqu’en japonais). C’est cette première collection que l’on nomme Traité de la perfection religieuse. La deuxième collection, composée de 41 discours (dont quatre centuries), a été redécouverte en 1983 par le Britannique Sebastian Brock, spécialiste du syriaque à l’Université d’Oxford. La troisième collection, composée de 17 discours (dont trois figurent déjà dans les collections précédentes) a été découverte dans un manuscrit trouvé à Téhéran.
Dans ces écrits, Isaac traite de tout ce qui concerne la vie spirituelle. Il écrit (ou dicte) pour des moines solitaires de la montagne iranienne du VIIe siècle, mais il est lu, compris et aimé tout au long des siècles, par des chrétiens de toutes conditions. Ainsi, son Traité de la perfection religieuse fut l’un des premiers livres qui débarquèrent dans le Nouveau Monde avec Bernardo Boil, son traducteur en catalan, compagnon de Christophe Colomb. Et Dostoïevski le mentionne explicitement dans Les Frères Karamazov…
Contrairement à ce qui a pu être écrit à une époque, il y avait une proximité entre Isaac le Syrien et Évagre le Pontique, maître à penser des Pères du désert et proche d’Origène. «La pensée d’Isaac fait la synthèse de deux Pères du désert», précise Marie-Anne Vannier : Macaire, en Égypte, centré sur les thèmes du «cœur» et de la «plénitude du Saint-Esprit» ; Éphrem de Nisibe (actuelle ville turque de Nusaybin), qui recherchait tout ce qui est figure du paradis perdu et du paradis futur.
Qu’a-t-il apporté à la spiritualité chrétienne ?
Pour saint Isaac, les voies de la connaissance de Dieu sont existentielles et passent par la solitude, l’humilité, la charité et la pureté de cœur. Il ne cesse de parler de l’amour de Dieu pour les hommes : un amour sans limites, «qui a conduit Jésus à la croix, qui triomphe de tout et devant lequel ni mort ni enfer ne subsistent».
Il insiste sur la transformation qu’opère la prière hésychaste (du grec hesychazo, «paix», «silence», «tranquillité du cœur»). «Que l’orant dorme ou qu’il veille, la prière désormais ne s’en va pas de son âme. Qu’il mange, qu’il boive, qu’il dorme, quoi qu’il fasse, et jusque dans le sommeil profond, le parfum de la prière s’élève sans peine dans son cœur» (Traité de la perfection, chap. 85). Cette transformation donne à celui qui prie un regard de miséricorde et de bénédiction sur les êtres et les choses, jusqu’aux serpents. «Isaac vivait dans une fraternité universelle avec les animaux et toute la Création, comme François d’Assise et Séraphim de Sarov», évoque encore Marie-Anne Vannier.
Ses écrits eurent une grande influence dans les Églises d’Orient, notamment auprès de Syméon le Nouveau Théologien (949-1022), grand spirituel byzantin ayant reçu le titre de « docteur » dans l’Église orthodoxe. Par ce biais, saint Isaac influença tout le mysticisme russe.
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10 mauvaises excuses ou prétextes pour quitter l’église
- L’église est pleine d’hypocrites
Car tous ont péché et sont privés de la gloire de Dieu.
Romains 3:23 En nous considérant comme premiers parmi les "Hypocrites", recourons au ministère prêtres: Il souffla sur eux, et leur dit: Recevez le Saint-Esprit. Ceux à qui vous pardonnerez les péchés, ils leur seront pardonnés; et ceux à qui vous les retiendrez, ils leur seront retenus...
- Je ne suis pas d’accord avec le "leadership" de l’église
Obéissez à vos conducteurs et ayez pour eux de la déférence, car ils veillent sur vos âmes comme devant en rendre compte.
- Personne n’est comme moi, je ne me ferai jamais d’ami
Vous êtes le corps de Christ, et vous êtes ses membres, chacun pour sa part.
1 Corinthiens 12:27
- J’ai tant de choses à faire, je n’ai pas le temps
Cherchez premièrement le royaume et la justice de Dieu, et toutes ces choses vous seront données par-dessus.
- Je peux assister à la Messe télévisée
Ainsi donc, pendant que nous en avons l’occasion, pratiquons le bien envers tous, et surtout envers les frères en la foi.
- Je me sens jugé
Confessez donc vos péchés les uns aux autres, et priez les uns pour les autres, afin que vous soyez guéris. La prière fervente du juste a une grande efficace.
- J’ai besoin d’un break
Veillons les uns sur les autres, pour nous exciter à la charité et aux bonnes oeuvres. N’abandonnons pas notre assemblée, comme c’est la coutume de quelques-uns, mais exhortons-nous réciproquement, et cela d’autant plus que vous voyez s’approcher le jour.
- Je ne trouve pas d’église qui me corresponde
Et même je regarde toutes choses comme une perte, à cause de l’excellence de la connaissance de Jésus-Christ mon Seigneur, pour lequel j’ai renoncé à tout, et je les regarde comme de la boue, afin de gagner Christ.
- Je suis fatigué
Ayez recours à l’Eternel et à son appui, Cherchez continuellement sa face !
1 Chroniques 16:11
- J’ai été blessé dans l’église
Supportez-vous les uns les autres, et, si l’un a sujet de se plaindre de l’autre, pardonnez-vous réciproquement. De même que Christ vous a pardonné, pardonnez-vous aussi.
La façon idéale de bien prier…
Que le soir, où la réunion est plus facile, toute la famille, le père, la mère, les enfants, les domestiques, s'assemblent donc, et que les cœurs unis ensemble présentent par la voix de l'un d'eux les vœux et la prière de tous. Alors il se fera comme un apaisement de toutes choses ; les nuages de la vie quotidienne disparaîtront ; l'air deviendra plus serein, les nuits seront plus calmes, les jours suivants seront plus heureux.
Dieu, selon sa promesse, descendra au milieu de cette famille réunie et apportera avec lui ses plus précieuses bénédictions.
Puis les anges recueilleront, chaque soir, ces prières toutes puissantes parce qu'elles seront fondues ensemble ; ils les porteront devant le trône de l'Agneau et formeront ainsi pour chaque famille, dans les hauteurs des cieux, une source toujours abondante qui suffira à tous les besoins et deviendra pour chaque membre comme une riche propriété à la fois indivise et particulière.
Cette pratique de la prière en commun est simple ; elle est facile ; elle demande seulement un peu de bonne volonté chez les chefs de la maison ; elle assure en retour un gage quotidien et toujours fécond des grâces du ciel ; et on peut lui appliquer ces paroles de l'Écriture :
-"Toutes sortes de bien s'introduiront avec elle dans l'intérieur de votre maison ; elle sera comme un berceau pour abriter votre famille ; elle donnera la joie et l'allégresse "(SAG. VII).
Que l'époux et l'épouse, que Dieu a unis pour partager les mêmes peines et les mêmes joies, prient ensemble.
Sans la prière une union ne peut être vraiment heureuse et bénie du ciel.
Que les enfants prient avec les parents.
Et l'enfant saura-t-il jamais prier, s'il n'a pas appris la prière sur les genoux de sa mère, d'abord, ensuite aux côtés de son père ?
Le père et la mère ne doivent pas se contenter de dire à leurs enfants : allez prier, mais bien : venez, prions ensemble.
Cette prière faite en commun dans la famille est une école sainte où les enfants apprendront la vénération qu'ils doivent aux auteurs de leurs jours.
Ils entoureront de leur profond respect ce père qui sait découvrir son front et s'agenouiller humblement devant le Père qui est aux cieux ; ils vénéreront cette mère qui se prosterne avec foi devant le Seigneur qui a donné la vie à ses enfants.
Ah ! Qu'elle est belle la famille, qu'elle est digne de l'admiration des anges la famille qui prie, qui voit chaque jour tous ses membres s'agenouiller sans exception devant Dieu comme elle va s'asseoir à la table paternelle !
La demeure de cette famille est alors un oratoire où l'on offre à Dieu un sacrifice de louanges par des prières et des hymnes sacrés.
Tous les membres de la famille sont présents à ce pieux rendez-vous. Tous unissent leurs voix pour adorer et remercier l'Auteur de tout bien.
Les enfants prient pour les auteurs de leurs jours ; et la prière de l'enfant a une si grande influence sur le cœur de Dieu ! C'est pour cela que le poète a dit :
"Petits enfants à tête blonde,
Vous dont l'âme est un encensoir,
Priez ; la prière est féconde ;
Un enfant peut sauver le monde, en joignant ses mains chaque soir. "
Que les parents prient pour leurs enfants ; qu'ils suivent le conseil que leur donne le Prophète Jérémie :
-" Levez vos mains vers Dieu et Dieu bénira l'âme de vos enfants. "
Il est certain que leur prière aura une efficacité toute particulière.
Qui nous rendra ces jours bénis où la prière du soir était, comme une fête quotidienne, pour toutes les familles ? Quand la journée était finie, le père assemblait ses enfants, ses domestiques ; tous s'agenouillaient humblement devant l'image du Dieu Sauveur, image qui souvent était une chère et pieuse relique léguée par les ancêtres dont elle avait entendu les vœux et béni les larmes.
Ils adoraient ensemble la majesté souveraine et demandaient au Père céleste, avec le pain qui nourrit le corps, le pain plus précieux encore qui nourrit l'âme.
Ils saluaient avec amour la Vierge Marie qui les avait protégés tout le jour, puis récitaient avec une foi vive ce symbole qui aurait ravi d'admiration tous les sages de l'antiquité.
Venait ensuite le décalogue, ce code parfait d'une morale sublime qui produit les saints.
Après avoir ainsi vivifié le souvenir de la loi qui devait les guider chaque jour, ils donnaient un souvenir aux morts longtemps pleures et imploraient la protection de l'ange gardien.
Faisant ensuite un retour sur eux-mêmes, ils s'accusaient avec componction des fragilités de là journée et s'engageaient à éviter le mal, à faire tout le bien possible dans l'avenir.
Le père bénissait l'assemblée et chacun se retirait heureux pour prendre un repos d'autant plus paisible qu'il n'était pas troublé par l'illusion ou par le remords.
De ce doux poème qui renfermait le culte domestique résultaient d'immenses avantages pour la religion et la société.
Quelle pieuse et sainte pratique que celle qui existe dans un grand nombre de nos familles chrétiennes et qui devrait être répandue partout, tellement elle est légitime, je veux dire la prière avant et après les repas.
N'est-il pas juste, puisque nous tenons tout de Dieu, n'est-il pas juste de le remercier de la nourriture qu'il nous donne ?
Les riches, dont la table est chargée de toutes sortes de mets pendant que les pauvres meurent de faim à leur porte,ne seraient-ils pas ingrats de ne pas remercier le Seigneur qui se montre bon pour eux jusqu'à leur donner non seulement le nécessaire mais encore l'utile et l'agréable ?
Les pauvres des biens de ce monde mais riches des biens de l'éternité, selon la parole d'un Père de l'Église, n'ont peut-être qu'un pain arrosé de leurs larmes, mais c'est à Dieu qu'ils le doivent ; mais s'il le leur a donné en moindre abondance qu'à d'autres, s'il le leur fait gagner péniblement, à la sueur de leur front, c'est qu'il veut leur faire apprécier un autre pain, le pain qui leur fera oublier leur pauvreté ; car il apporte avec lui une douceur et une consolation toutes célestes.
Extrait de : La Prière - Olivier Elzéar Mathieu. Archevêque de Régina (1925)
Sin, Death and the Fall
I would like to consider the dogmatic aspects of Sin, Death and the Fall which are the basis of man’s estrangement from God, and the cause of our needing a Saviour. We will look at these different aspects in turn, and we will begin in the Garden of Eden, when God gave Adam a simple command which he was to obey or face dire consequences. We read in Genesis 2:7 how it was that beyond simply making man another one the animals which he had created, God breathed into him his own life, the Holy Spirit of God, so that he might be able to enter into an experience of communion with God, sharing by grace some aspects of the divine character. It says…
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
This idea of Adam as a living being has always been understood to mean more than simply his having an animal existence. And there is no other creature of which it is said that God breathed the breath of life into him. St Gregory of Nazianzus says of this in one of his Dogmatic Hymns…
The soul is the breath of God, a substance of heaven mixed with the lowest earth, a light entombed in a cave, yet wholly divine and unquenchable…. He spoke, and taking some of the newly minted earth his immortal hands made an image into which he imparted some of his own life. He sent his spirit, a beam from the invisible divinity.
And Tertullian says of this breath of life…
The soul has its origin in the breath of God and did not come from matter. We base that statement on the clear assertion of divine revelation, which declares that “God breathed the breath of life into the face of man, and man became a living soul.”
And St Basil the Great says…
And he breathed into his nostrils,” that is to say, he placed in man some share of his own grace, in order that he might recognize likeness through likeness. Nevertheless, being in such great honor because he was created in the image of the Creator, he is honored above the heavens, above the sun, above the choirs of stars. For which of the heavenly bodies was said to be an image of the most-high God.
It is especially of this breathing life into man that we are to understand that man is made in the image of God, when the Holy Trinity says in Genesis 1…
Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
It is necessary to remind ourselves of this state in which man was created before we begin to consider what has been lost and how we have come to the condition in which we now find ourselves. Man was created to be in the image of God, and he received a life which was more than animal, and was in some sense a divine gift, the breath or Spirit of God. It is not that some part of God has been changed into the soul of man, but that the soul of man is created directly by God, by his own breathing life into us. Tertullian says…
Thus you read the word of God, spoken to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” If God forms us in the womb, he also breathes on us as he did in the beginning: “And God formed man and breathed into him the breath of life.” Nor could God have known man in the womb unless he were a whole man.
The Fathers speak of the qualities of this divinely created soul as being immortality, rationality, and the possibility of union and communion with God. If we think of the soul as only being the thinking aspect of man, the mind and brain, then we will wonder what it means for the soul to have an existence apart from the body and brain. We will also wonder what it means when some Fathers speak of body, soul and spirit. We will also wonder why others speak only of the body and soul. We see this different approach to the same human nature in the Scriptures.
Ecclesiastes 12:7, for instance describes a dichotomy, and speaks of the body and the spirit, saying…
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
The dust here refers to that dust from which the body of Adam was created, and the spirit refers to the non-material aspect of man. And in Matthew 10:28, our Lord Jesus speaks of this dichotomy, saying…
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
While in 1 Corinthians 7:34, the Apostle Paul writes…
The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.
In these examples, and others from the Scripture, we can see that there is a description of human nature as being body and soul or body and spirit, so that the word soul and spirit seem to be referring to the same reality. But there are also passages in the writings of St Paul which speak of three aspects of human nature, and adopt a language of trichotomy.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we read…
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This seems to categorise three aspects of human nature, the body, the soul and the spirit. In Hebrews 4:12 we also find the words…
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
This seems to discriminate between the soul and the spirit of a man and therefore represents a trichotomy. The reflection which developed in the patristic Church on the nature of man was therefore rooted in a varied use of language in the Scripture. Is man body and soul or spirit, or is he body, soul and spirit?
It was a subject that many of the early Fathers discussed. Sometimes the same Fathers speak in different ways. St Ignatius of Antioch, for instance, says in his letter to the Philadelphians…
The love of the brethren at Troas salutes you; … in whom they hope, in flesh, and soul, and spirit, and faith, and love, and concord.
Here he describes a trichotomy of flesh, soul and spirit. But elsewhere, in his letter to St Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, he says…
Therefore, you are made of flesh and spirit.
And this passage clearly describes a dichotomy. Likewise, in the second letter of Clement of Rome to the Church in Corinth, he writes…
By the inside he means the soul and by the outside the body.
And this passage also reflects a dichotomy when thinking about human nature. St Justin Martyr was one of the first to make some distinction between the human soul and spirit, though he is himself a very early writer, and was born in about 100 AD, as the Apostle John finally reposed. He says in his work On the Resurrection…
But, in truth, He has even called the flesh to the resurrection, and promises to it everlasting life. For where He promises to save man, there He gives the promise to the flesh. For what is man but the reasonable animal composed of body and soul? Is the soul by itself man? No; but the soul of man. Would the body be called man? No, but it is called the body of man. If, then, neither of these is by itself man, but that which is made up of the two together is called man, and God has called man to life and resurrection, He has called not a part, but the whole, which is the soul and the body.
This would seem to be entirely a dichotomy being described. He is insistent that man is not just the body, and is not just the soul, but is body and soul together. Yet in the same work he writes…
The resurrection is a resurrection of the flesh which died. For the spirit dies not; the soul is in the body, and without a soul it cannot live. The body, when the soul forsakes it, is not. For the body is the house of the soul; and the soul the house of the spirit. These three, in all those who cherish a sincere hope and unquestioning faith in God, will be saved.
Here we see that the soul and body are described, but as the body is the house of the soul, so it is said that the soul is the house of the spirit. Now this spirit which is spoken of cannot be the Holy Spirit in this case, since St Justin Martyr speaks of it being saved together with the body and soul. It is therefore necessary to see what St Justin could mean. In his Dialogue with Trypho, which records his conversation with a Christian teacher who led him to faith, he remembers him saying…
For the truth is so; and you would perceive it from this. The soul assuredly is or has life. If, then, it is life, it would cause something else, and not itself, to live, even as motion would move something else than itself. Now, that the soul lives, no one would deny. But if it lives, it lives not as being life, but as the partaker of life; but that which partakes of anything, is different from that of which it does partake. Now the soul partakes of life, since God wills it to live. Thus, then, it will not even partake of life when God does not will it to live. For to live is not its attribute, as it is God’s; but as a man does not live always, and the soul is not for ever conjoined with the body, since, whenever this harmony must be broken up, the soul leaves the body, and the man exists no longer; even so, whenever the soul must cease to exist, the spirit of life is removed from it, and there is no more soul, but it goes back to the place from whence it was taken.’
This is a lengthy but important passage. In the first place he recognises that the soul must either be life itself or have life. But only God is life in himself without any other cause. And God does not live, rather he is the source of life in others, just as motion is not movement in itself but gives movement to those it acts upon. Therefore, St Justin concludes, whether he is describing what he was taught or using this as a literary device, the soul has life because it partakes in life as the gift of God, and therefore, contrary to some pagan ideas, the soul is not divine itself. Indeed, the soul receives life only as long as God wills that it does so, since it does not have life itself, but receives and partakes of life. Therefore, he is able to say that when man dies the union between body and soul is disturbed, and the soul leaves the body, and this is the meaning of death. But he also considers that if the soul were to cease to exist – and it is not clear if he has something in mind, such as the state of the wicked after punishment – but if the soul were to cease to exist, according to St Justin, this would be because the spirit of life had been removed from it.
All of this would seem to suggest that St Justin has in mind a synthesis of the two aspect and three aspect language. In this model he seems to indicate that the body and soul are created by God and that man is composed of these two elements. But that man also receives the spirit of life, which is not created, but is a participation in the life of God, and is that which gives the soul energy and allows the soul in turn to energise the body. This would seem to suggest that man is body and soul, but that he also receives the ‘spirit of life’, so that he is body, soul and spirit.
His disciple, Tatian, who later fell away from the faith, also wrote on this topic, particularly in response to pagan ideas about the soul. He says…
We recognise two varieties of spirit, one of which is called the soul, but the other is greater than the soul, an image and likeness of God: both existed in the first men, that in one sense they might be material, and in another superior to matter.
Here we perhaps see that he wishes to describe the soul as the material spirit of man. We might consider this the psychological aspect in some sense, and even shared with other creatures who also have a material soul and spirit. But there is something else, a higher spirit, which represents the image and likeness of God and which is more than created, as St Justin also seemed to indicate. Indeed, elsewhere, Tatian says…
For the soul does not preserve the spirit, but is preserved by it, and the light comprehends the darkness…. Now, in the beginning the spirit was a constant companion of the soul, but the spirit forsook it because it was not willing to follow. Yet, retaining as it were a spark of its power, though unable by reason of the separation to discern the perfect, while seeking for God it fashioned to itself in its wandering many gods, following the sophistries of the demons.
This gives us some sense that the spirit of life, of which St Justin speaks, and which Tatian describes as the image and likeness of God, was that which was given by God to Adam, as the breath of life, and which Adam lost through his turning away from God. But Tatian does not believe that man has entirely lost this divine breath, this spirit of life, and speaks of a spark remaining which leads the soul always to be seeking after God, yet easily lost in the worship of idols and demons.
If the spark of life, the spirit, is the image and likeness of God, much diminished in man, then it is possible to understand how it is able to also participate in salvation. Not as if the image and likeness of God was itself corrupt, but that the participation in this image and likeness in the spirit of life can be renewed, restored and perfected in those who seek after God with all their heart.
Clement of Alexandria describes the various aspects of human nature, including the parts of the body and the senses. But his description of the non-material elements is most interesting and useful to this study. He says…
We accordingly assert that rational and ruling power is the cause of the constitution of the living creature; also that this, the irrational part, is animated, and is a part of it. Now the vital force, in which is comprehended the power of nutrition and growth, and generally of motion, is assigned to the carnal spirit, which has great susceptibility of motion, and passes in all directions through the senses and the rest of the body, and through the body is the primary subject of sensations. But the power of choice, in which investigation, and study, and knowledge, reside, belongs to the ruling faculty. But all the faculties are placed in relation to one — the ruling faculty: it is through that man lives, and lives in a certain way.
This is rather complicated. But he is saying that there is a rational and ruling principle in man, but there is also an irrational and animal principle. He calls this the carnal spirit, which we can consider as operating the body and senses. The ruling faculty he considers that which wills and reflects and knows. This gives us a trichotomy of the body, the irrational spirit and the ruling faculty, which can be considered as expressing the idea of body, soul and spirit. The thinking and willing aspect of man, which bears the image and likeness of God, uses the animal soul, but is not identical to it, and this animal soul in turn uses and inhabits the human body and mind.
St Irenaeus of Lyons, writing on this subject in his extensive work, Against the Heresies, says…
They do not take this fact into consideration, that there are three things out of which, as I have shown, the complete man is composed-flesh, soul, and spirit. One of these does indeed preserve and fashion the man-this is the spirit; while as to another it is united and formed-that is the flesh; then comes that which is between these two-that is the soul, which sometimes indeed, when it follows the spirit, is raised up by it, but sometimes it sympathizes with the flesh, and falls into carnal lusts. Those then, as many as they be, who have not that which saves and forms us into life eternal, shall be, and shall be called, mere flesh and blood; for these are they who have not the Spirit of God in themselves. Wherefore men of this stamp are spoken of by the Lord as “dead; “for, says He, “Let the dead bury their dead,” because they have not the Spirit which quickens man.
Here again we see a trichotomy which helps us to understand the language of dichotomy. In the first place St Irenaeus describes man as composed of body, soul and spirit. He states that it is the spirit of a man which preserves and fashions him. This seems to mean that he considers that the spirit is what makes a man a particular person. While it is the body to which the spirit is united. But in between these two there is the soul which can either be made spiritual or fleshly. Yet there appears to be another element, the Spirit of God, which is not the same as the human spirit, but which works to give life to those who have this Spirit of God, while those without the Spirit of God are called dead because even though they have an animal life they do not have the life of the spirit, or rather the life of the flesh dominates over the life of the spirit.
He continues to say…
Now the soul and the spirit are certainly a part of the man, but certainly not the man; for the perfect man consists in the commingling and the union of the soul receiving the spirit of the Father, and the admixture of that fleshly nature which was moulded after the image of God. For this reason, the apostle declares, “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect,” terming those persons “perfect” who have received the Spirit of God.
Here again St Irenaeus describes the soul and spirit, which is united with the body, but even while he speaks of the spirit as being part of the human nature, he again refers to the receiving of the Spirit of the Father, that is, the Holy Spirit, as a necessary aspect in man becoming perfected in the image of God. Perhaps it can be said that it is the spirit of man which is the aspect of human nature in which reception and participation in the Holy Spirit of God takes place in those who have received the Spirit. Just as it is the spirit of man which is the breath of life, the gift of God, the image and likeness of God, the spark of life even in humanity after the Fall, and which requires the Spirit of God, and participation in the Spirit to come be restored and perfected.
These discussions were taken up by later theologians. St Athanasius, for instance, in his Contra Gentes, says…
The rational nature of the soul is strongly confirmed by its difference from irrational creatures. For this is why common use gives them that name, because, namely, the race of mankind is rational. Secondly, it is no ordinary proof, that man alone thinks of things external to himself, and reasons about things not actually present, and exercises reflection, and chooses by judgment the better of alternative reasonings. For the irrational animals see only what is present, and are impelled solely by what meets their eye, even if the consequences to them are injurious, while man is not impelled toward what he sees merely, but judges by thought what he sees with his eyes. Often for example his impulses are mastered by reasoning; and his reasoning is subject to after-reflection. And every one, if he be a friend of truth, perceives that the intelligence of mankind is distinct from the bodily senses. Hence, because it is distinct, it acts as judge of the senses, and while they apprehend their objects, the intelligence distinguishes, recollects, and shews them what is best.
We see here that St Athanasius wants to distinguish between rational and irrational. Man has the unique ability to reflect on himself, and on circumstances that perhaps do not even exist in reality. He has imagination, and reason, and these are other and different to the simple experience of the senses. He draws attention to the distinction between the proper concerns of the body and those of the soul and concludes that they are not the same, and that the soul is not merely an aspect of the body. He says…
How is it, that whereas the body is mortal by nature, man reasons on the things of immortality, and often, where virtue demands it, courts death? Or how, since the body lasts but for a time, does man imagine of things eternal, so as to despise what lies before him, and desire what is beyond? The body could not have spontaneously such thoughts about itself, nor could it think upon what is external to itself. For it is mortal and lasts but for a time. And it follows that that which thinks what is opposed to the body and against its nature must be distinct in kind. What then can this be, save a rational and immortal soul?
The soul has a preoccupation with transcendence. It wants to go beyond itself, beyond the immediate experience provided by the body. St Athanasius continues…
For this is the reason why the soul thinks of and bears in mind things immortal and eternal, namely, because it is itself immortal. And just as, the body being mortal, its senses also have mortal things as their objects, so, since the soul contemplates and beholds immortal things, it follows that it is immortal and lives for ever. For ideas and thoughts about immortality never desert the soul, but abide in it, and are as it were the fuel in it which ensures its immortality. This then is why the soul has the capacity for beholding God, and is its own way thereto, receiving not from without but from herself the knowledge and apprehension of the Word of God.
There is something about the character of the soul which especially seeks and respond to God, and alone has the capacity for the vision of divine things. This is why St Athanasius is able to say…
For the soul is made after the image and likeness of God, as divine Scripture also shews, when it says in the person of God: “Let us make man after our Image and likeness.” Whence also when it gets rid of all the filth of sin which covers it and retains only the likeness of the Image in its purity, then surely this latter being thoroughly brightened, the soul beholds as in a mirror the Image of the Father, even the Word, and by His means reaches the idea of the Father, Whose Image the Saviour is.
This seems to me to be saying what some of the other Fathers have described. That is to say, that the soul, and especially the higher aspects of the soul which some others have called the spirit, is created in the image and likeness of God, and this image and likeness is not lost, even in fallen man, but is obscured and hidden, and when the soul seeks to be made clean by God, then this image and likeness can be seen again in the experience of a renewed and restored humanity.
In his work, On the Incarnation, St Athanasius takes up this important theme again and places it in the context of the Fall of Adam into sin. He says, in Chapter 3…
He did not barely create man, as He did all the irrational creatures on the earth, but made them after His own image, giving them a portion even of the power of His own Word; so that having as it were a kind of reflexion of the Word, and being made rational, they might be able to abide ever in blessedness, living the true life which belongs to the saints in paradise.
What do we learn here? It is that man was not made in the same way as all other living creatures. Or rather being creatures as the rest, it was the intention of God from the beginning that man would receive more, by way of a free gift in the love of God. In the first place, man alone was created to be in the image of God, and so in some sense a participation in the divine life was granted – which we have seem called a spark, and the spirit of life. And man was endowed with rationality, which means more than simply the ability to think – since we see that even irrational animals are often able to exhibit such mental activity. Rationality has rather the sense of being able to understand and choose that which is good and perfect and divine. The word logical, which we might link with the idea of reason and rationality, comes ultimately from the word logos, and in a Christian context connects the proper working of man’s reason with the experience of participation in the Logos or Word of God.
St Athanasius says of man, as he was created in this blessed state…
But knowing once more how the will of man could sway to either side, in anticipation He secured the grace given them by a law and by the spot where He placed them. For He brought them into His own garden, and gave them a law: so that, if they kept the grace and remained good, they might still keep the life in paradise without sorrow or pain or care besides having the promise of incorruption in heaven; but that if they transgressed and turned back, and became evil, they might know that they were incurring that corruption in death which was theirs by nature: no longer to live in paradise, but cast out of it from that time forth to die and to abide in death and in corruption.
This teaches us that man was still not secure in his will, and there was always the potential for him to choose evil. The Fathers often repeat this idea of God providing a place and a law. And this was clearly not so that Adam might be trapped or tricked into sin, but that he might be preserved from it. In the Garden into which God brought him there was everything he could possibly need, and there was this one simple rule, by which he could learn maturity in the face of temptation, and firmness in obedience. There could be no sense in which Adam, and his partner Eve, could be said to have been left without a clear sense that there was required of them a choice for God, as the means of securing the benefits they enjoyed both in the present and into eternity.
What is clear is that if they did sin then they would find themselves in the corruption and death which was their own created nature. This was not a punishment being imposed, but a natural consequence of abandoning the divine gift which had been breathed into them and which preserved them from the natural mortality that belongs to all created beings. As we have learned, only God is life in himself, all creatures of God receive life from him as a gift, and are liable to the natural corruption and mortality which belongs to created beings if the gift of life is withdrawn.
But by “dying you shall die,” what else could be meant than not dying merely, but also abiding for ever in the corruption of death?
If death is both the experience of mortality, which immediately fell upon Adam and Eve, and all their descendants, and also the experience of the separation of body and soul, from which there was no obvious liberation, then this was certainly a dying which led to an even more certain death. This is consistent with St Athanasius’ argument in this work, which continues saying…
For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were turned back to what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption.
This could not be clearer. The transgression of Adam and Eve allowed them to experience unchecked the natural mortality and corruption in a life lived without the divine Spirit to sustain and enflame the human spirit. Adam and Eve had been created from nothing, and would return to nothing, since being is the natural property of God alone, and without God being turns to disintegration, death and corruption. It was not, according to St Athanasius, the loss of something that they possessed of themselves. The state in which Adam and Eve found themselves is what being a created being looks like without the grace of God. It is mortality, corruption and eternal death.
It was not that they found themselves contaminated with evil, since evil, as St Athanasius insists, does not exist. It is not a thing at all. Rather it is the lack of something else, of the good that man was intended to choose, and the gift that he had been freely given in God’s love. Just as darkness does not exist, but is the lack of light.
St Athanasius says…
For God has not only made us out of nothing; but He gave us freely, by the Grace of the Word, a life in correspondence with God. But men, having rejected things eternal, and, by counsel of the devil, turned to the things of corruption, became the cause of their own corruption in death, being, as I said before, by nature corruptible, but destined, by the grace following from partaking of the Word, to have escaped their natural state, had they remained good. For because of the Word dwelling with them, even their natural corruption did not come near them.
This passage from St Athanasius begins to help us to see what happened at the Fall. There was a rejection of eternal things and a turning to things of corruption. This represents the rejection of the divine life of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the desire for created things, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the prideful desire to be like God on Adam’s own terms. It is this rejection of the life of God which is the natural cause of the falling of Adam into corruption and mortality. This is the natural state of all created things and the consequence of abandoning the special grace of God which preserved them free from this natural corruption.
The death into which Adam fell was an immediate death of his soul, which found itself without the grace of God, and the immediate experience of human mortality, concluding eventually after a long life, in the death of the body and the separation of body and soul. But Adam was already dead as soon as he ate of the fruit. But this was not a punishment, it was a consequence, and God’s commandment not to eat of the fruit of that one tree was not a statement of a special punishment, but simply what must happen if the divine life and union with God in holiness were rejected.
It was not simply the case that Adam was left without grace, and slowly experiencing his mortality leading to physical death. There was a corruption associated with his created and mortal nature. We see this in the liability to pain and suffering, to illness and disease in an increasing measure. But it is also seen in the moral corruption which seems almost unnatural in its excess. St Athanasius says of this,
For even in their misdeeds men had not stopped short at any set limits; but gradually pressing forward, have passed on beyond all measure: having to begin with been inventors of wickedness and called down upon themselves death and corruption; while later on, having turned aside to wrong and exceeding all lawlessness, and stopping at no one evil but devising all manner of new evils in succession, they have become insatiable in sinning.
The great benefits of the human rationality and intelligence, imagination and creativity, mean that beyond all other created beings, it is mankind which has used these gifts to sinful and evil ends. Having lost the presence of the divine Spirit of God which would have preserved and sustained man in holiness and obedience, instead mankind is much worse than any animal. We go beyond every natural wickedness to the committing of sins that are far beyond nature and unimaginable even to the most savage beast.
Yet man cannot say that he has been born with some innate disadvantage that is a burden imposed by God. We are certainly born into a circumstance that we did not choose. We are born mortal of mortal parents, as both St Cyril and St Severus state. But we are not born sinful. And even if we are born corruptible, we are not born corrupt. We are born into a state of separation from God, without the divine life within as anything other than a spark, and we are without that grace of God that would sustain and strengthen us in obedience and holiness. Nevertheless, even though born innocent and sinless, we will be responsible ourselves for every wrong choice we make, and for every turning away from God, and if we will become corrupted, it is because of our own actions and thoughts and desires.
Our problem is not that we will be punished for sin, it is that we are born into a state of physical, moral and spiritual death. This is why, to jump ahead of ourselves, all the souls of the departed before Christ were in Hades, a gloomy place of waiting. The bodies of the departed had returned to dust because of their mortality. Their souls had been separated from their bodies because of their mortality. And these souls did not experience the complete blessedness that God intended because they were also without the divine life that had been lost by Adam. Even these, the most righteous men and women before Christ, could do nothing by their own actions, to restore the state of their human nature to that which Adam had lost. All the grace which the most righteous undoubtedly received and experienced was not the same as that indwelling of the divine life which Adam had sold so cheaply.
We need to note that the word guilt does not appear at all in the work On the Incarnation by St Athanasius. The condition which we found ourselves in because of Adam’s sin was not one in which mankind was guilty, certainly not guilty of Adam’s sin, even if we become guilty of our own. Therefore, the incarnation is not a matter of dealing with man’s guilt, but with death and separation from God. Since every one of us is born into this state of death and separation, it would never be possible for any man or woman to restore the state of life and union with God which Adam enjoyed, even if they never committed any sin at all. St Athanasius says,
For this cause, then, death having gained upon men, and corruption abiding upon them, the race of man was perishing; the rational man made in God’s image was disappearing, and the handiwork of God was in process of dissolution. For death, as I said above, gained from that time forth a legal hold over us, and it was impossible to evade the law, since it had been laid down by God because of the transgression, and the result was in truth at once monstrous and unseemly.
We can see here that the problem is especially that of death and corruption, not sin. Sin is a symptom, an outworking, of the state of death and corruption. Our problem is not so much that we sin, but that we are dead and corruptible and are becoming corrupted. It is death which has a hold over us, because the sentence of God, given the force of a divine law, was that when Adam ate of the fruit of the tree he would surely die, and experience death in the fullest sense as separation from God who is our life. It is because of this separation from God that we enter into a life of sinful acts of the will. But we are already dead to God, and therefore experience death already in the most comprehensive sense.
The case of unborn infants who are not born alive or are miscarried is an opportunity to consider what the church teaches. St Gregory of Nyssa has a few words to say on this subject. He says that a life of blessedness belongs to the one whose spiritual sight is clear, and that in mankind this requires great effort and the grace of God to overcome sin, but it belongs already to the infant and is lost by us as we grow into sinfulness. He says…
The innocent babe has no such plague before its soul’s eyes obscuring its measure of light, and so it continues to exist in that natural life; it does not need the soundness which comes from purgation, because it never admitted the plague into its soul at all.
He goes on to suggest that the soul of an unborn infant, and even the infant reposing not long into their life, could not possibly suffer any torment because there is nothing in them at all deserving of it, and their infant soul is still turned towards God. Yet there is this difference. The soul of one who has spent his life in overcoming sin, and in hard-won repentance and many experiences of God’s grace, will participate in the blessedness of Paradise and of Heaven with a different character than the one who never sinned, never needed to repent, and has no experience of the grace of sanctification. Yet the blessedness is one, even if the participation is different.
And the dear and saintly Pope Timothy of Alexandria, addressing a woman who had lost three of her children, says…
I was in great grief, mourning and lamenting, as though I saw your small children, and at the same time I heard he voice of the Creator of us all admonishing me, saying, ‘Do you suppose, O man, that your tender mercy is greater than mine? Do you suppose I have no compassion equal to your own, and that I do not say, “Let the children come unto me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven”.
Do we doubt the mercy of God towards all those he has made, and especially those who have not drawn breath before passing away. St Timothy encourages the bereaved woman to remind herself when she feels her pain the most…
After a short time I will not be left separated from my child, if I am also worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, then I will not be far from them forever.
This is a blessed truth, of which I am convinced. That our Lord has not created any to be condemned because left without the possibility of baptism in the womb. And that each one who passes to life even before breath is sinless and innocent in the eyes of God. He will unite to himself those he has made and called to himself before birth. And of the blessed state in which they wait, St Timothy recounts a miracle he heard from the mouth of St Dioscorus, in which a young boy had been bitten by a poisonous snake and died, and being restored to life by Abba Longinus, the young boy said…
O father, I am burned by the love of the greenery which my soul saw, I have never eaten anything like it, nor is the eye of man able to look at it, or the mouth of man to describe it. I saw a man of shining appearance, and he took me into the Garden of Eden, and I saw trees which bear many fruits. Then he took me to the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he commanded that they take me to the children who are like me…
In this happy and blessed place the souls of all infants wait in peace and joy. God has made them and called them to himself. Gathered up those who are especially loved by him. The words of St Timothy are a comfort…
Your child was living, and now God has taken her to himself, where there is no death, so that they might live with him forever… their souls fly due to the greatness of the taste of their happiness.
From the experience of love to an experience of even more overwhelming and unceasing love. From the experience of blessedness to even greater experience of blessedness. The pain of loss and separation tempered by the hope and expectation of reunion and of the fulfillment of love in eternity. The mercy of God knows no bounds, and those fragile, innocent, sinless souls created in love to participate in his love are preserved in love now and forever, and wait to greet us and embrace us in love.
Many of the Fathers considered that a child did not become responsible or liable for sin until some years after birth, because sin is an act of the will, and the unformed will of an infant is therefore not considered to be able to consent or adopt any deliberate act of sin. The status of a child seems to very easily and clearly describe the views which were held about the nature of each human born into the world, or dying before birth and any human activity had taken place.
St Gregory Nazianzus says in one of his homilies,
For this is how the matter stands. At that time they begin to be responsible for their lives, when reason is matured, and they learn the mystery of life (for of sins of ignorance owing to their tender years they have no account to give), and it is far more profitable on all accounts to be fortified by the Font, because of the sudden assaults of danger that befall us, stronger than our helpers.
The issue being considered in this unit is not so much that of the means of salvation, and what it means to be baptized. Rather it is to consider the state into which each of us is born, whether we are baptized soon after our birth or not. In this passage from St Gregory we see that he does not teach, and nor do other Fathers, that an infant is able to be considered as committing sin, because they have not yet become responsible and their reason has not yet matured. Of course, this does not simply do away with the question of what God might do in the life of a small infant, or an unborn child dying in utero. But these Eastern Fathers seem clear that the infant does not have a problem of sin, and has not inherited any sort of guilt because of the sin of Adam. The problem is one of death and being born into a mortal and corruptible state, but the small infant is not sinful. And this is entirely the teaching of St Cyril and St Severus who state that we are “born mortal of mortal parents, but not sinful of sinful parents”.
This positive attitude towards humanity, even in a state of mortality, death and corruption is represented by statements from the Fathers such as St Severus, who says,
Adam did not lose a single natural blessing, neither did our race because of him. However, the rule is as follows. [St Cyril] For we have lost nothing of that which we possessed by nature.
Of course, this does not mean that man is not in a desperate plight, but it insists that the humanity we receive from our parents is essentially that nature in which Adam was created. What has been lost is grace and the gift of divine life by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, St Severus continues,
That it is by grace indeed that Adam possessed incorruptibility from the beginning – which consists in immortality and impassibility – enriched as he was with a blessing that was beyond nature by the liberality of Him who had created him, we have learned from the word of the Fathers instructed by God. If he had conserved the grace then the mortal character conforming to nature, would have remained hidden along with the corruptibility of the human body.
Our mortality and corruptibility are natural to us, they are not a punishment, but a consequence of being created beings. All that we have lost, and all that has plunged us into death and the habitual commission of sin, as turning away from God in the will, is the result of the loss of grace. Adam wanted to go his own way, and this is what it looks like. But his nature, becoming mortal and corruptible, did not become sinful, because sin is an action of the will and of a person, not of a nature.
This is also the teaching of St Cyril, who says,
Man is a rational animal, but composite, meaning of a soul and of this earthly and temporal flesh. Because he has been made by God, and has come into being, without holding in his own nature either incorruptibility or indestructibility – these indeed belong by nature to God alone – he had been marked with the spirit of life, enriched, by an intimate relationship with God, with a blessing which surpassed nature.
He agrees here, that the nature of man does not possess incorruptibility and immortality by nature because it is created, and depends on God for existence, but he had received a blessing which surpassed nature, which was more than natural, in his intimate relationship with God and which was the divine spirit of life. We have suffered a loss, by the sin of Adam, but this has not changed our nature and made it sinful. We are certainly much more easily and universally led into sin, and do so with energy and imagination, making ourselves lower than animals. But our sin is a matter of reason and choice and will, and so the infant and the unborn are without sin, even though they are in the same state of mortality and corruptibility. We become sinful and corrupt ourselves, we are not born in such a state.
St Severus says,
.. the sin of Adam was not mixed naturally with our substance…; but it is because they had lost the grace of immortality.
This is an important point. If sin is a matter of the use of the will to turn away from God, and therefore requires some reason and determination, then a small infant cannot be said to sin. If sin is not a thing, not a substance, and so is not mixed in with our humanity, then I am the one responsible for my sin, for my turning away from God. This seems to me to illustrate two aspects of the Christian message. In the first place, even living without sin does not provide for a human person the renewal of the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the intimate relationship with God which was lost by Adam’s sin. Such a way of life may be commendable, and may be the object of blessing in many ways, but it cannot restore all that was lost. This is beyond us as human beings who now experience separation from God as mortality and corruptibility.
In the second place, our own personal sins, which are a turning away from God, lead us to a deeper participation in death, in non-being and darkness, however attractive they seem. The judgement of God will be considered in due course, but it seems to me that sin is already its own punishment, if we wish to speak in such a manner. If sin is turning away from God, then what greater punishment could be imagined than for this to become our experience? We imagine, perhaps, that sin is a matter of legal offences against God, and we hope that various ways can be used to mitigate our offence, but if sin is an act of the will in turning away from God, who is life and light, towards death and darkness, then it already carries its own, often unnoticed and unrecognized, penalty.
What can we propose as the Orthodox view of these things? It is that Adam and Eve were created with that mortal and corruptible nature which belongs to all created beings, but that they received a divine gift and grace at their creation which made possible every blessing God intended for them. When they sinned, they exercised their free will to turn away from God and they immediately lost the grace and gift which was a divine life within them. They were left in their natural mortal and corruptible state, and without the strengthening grace of the Holy Spirit both they and their children turned away from God more and more often, and with greater and greater energy and imagination, as the effects of the divine grace were increasingly diminished. There was no essential change in the nature of humanity, but it had lost the grace of God. The children of Adam were not responsible for his sin, nor did they bear any guilt of it, but they were born into the condition of mortality and corruptibility he had created. Therefore, an infant is without sin at all, since sin is the exercise of the free will against God. But an infant is nevertheless born mortal and separated from God in corruptibility, though not corrupt. Our sinfulness and our corruption are our own responsibility, and being a choice for death, darkness and non-being, they already constitute their own penalty.
The situation of man, which God willed from the beginning to restore in love, is therefore not the punishment of sin, but the reconciliation and renewal of mortal man, already bound by physical, moral and spiritual death. Salvation is not essentially the freedom from some future punishment, since Adam and all of us born of him are already dead and separated from God. There is no greater consequence of sin. Adam received this judgement at the moment he turned away from God, and God himself had said, in Genesis 2:16,
You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.
He did not physically die at the moment he turned away from God in sin, but he certainly became mortal according to his nature, and he certainly lost the grace of the divine life at that moment, and certainly and immediately experienced the separation from God, which is true death. Therefore, the consequence of sin was already its own penalty and it occurs in the moment of sin, in the act of will that turns away from God. And experiencing this total death, this separation from God who is life, we find that it becomes easier and easier, more and more attractive, to turn away from God again and again, until the world becomes as at the time of Noah, as recorded in Genesis 6:5,
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
This is not the state of man as God intended. It is not the state of man experiencing the gift and grace of divine life. But it is the condition of man living without the divine life, seeking the fulfillment of his desire for God in the desire for the created order and for temporal satisfaction. Man’s problem is not that he sins, but that being dead to life with God he finds himself incoherent and disintegrating in the darkness into which he is born, and turns away from God in his instability and corruptibility.
This is certainly the view of the Fathers such as St Athanasius, St Cyril and St Severus. Man’s problem is that he is dead, not that he sins. Sin is a consequence of this death, and this state of death is the disease we inherit. This death is the separation from the grace and gift of God. Until the 4th century this was the view in the Church. There was an Ancestral Sin, which Adam had committed, and which had consequences for us all. But there was no sense that we inherit any responsibility for, or guilt of that sin. If my ancestor had been very wealthy, and had spent all of his money on gambling, then I would be born poor, as my parents had been born into poverty, but I would not be at all guilty of my ancestor’s prodigality and wastefulness.
But with Augustine of Hippo a rather new idea was introduced, which was that human nature itself was made sinful, and so each human being born into the world was already guilty of sin, and liable to the judgement of God. Tertullian, writing in North Africa some time before Augustine, still spoke of “the innocent period of life” belonging to infants. And he distinguished between infants and children, saying,
This antithesis is impudent enough, since it throws together things so different as infants and children, an age still innocent, and one already capable of discretion.
The consideration for Tertullian in Latin North Africa was still one, shared in the East, of the use of reason and will with discretion. An infant is not liable to be considered sinful because she lacks such a developed rational power, but as the infant grows into childhood there comes a time when increasingly what is chosen and committed can be considered deliberate and willful and therefore sin. Even Cyprian, a rather hard line bishop of North Africa, who absolutely rejected the value of the baptism of anyone outside of the formal bounds of the Church, spoke about infants, and therefore describes the nature of humanity we receive, saying,
For, with respect to what you say, that the aspect of an infant in the first days after its birth is not pure, so that any one of us would still shudder at kissing it, we do not think that this ought to be alleged as any impediment to heavenly grace. For it is written, “To the pure all things are pure.” Nor ought any of us to shudder at that which God hath condescended to make. For although the infant is still fresh from its birth, yet it is not such that any one should shudder at kissing it in giving grace and in making peace; since in the kiss of an infant every one of us ought for his very religion’s sake, to consider the still recent hands of God themselves, which in some sort we are kissing, in the man lately formed and freshly born, when we are embracing that which God has made… how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth.
This is a rather beautiful passage, which describes the new born baby as not having any sins, but having entered into that state of mortality to which Adam’s sin dooms us all. This remains consistent with the Eastern view it seems to me.
But Augustine introduces a new opinion. It is that the infant just born into the world, and even the one in the womb, is already sinful and already guilty of Adam’s sin. Rather than considering that a child inherits the consequences of Adam’s sin, and becomes responsible and guilty of only his own sins, Augustine taught that the child was already guilty of Adam’s sin and was to be considered as having participated in it, and therefore to be already sinful. It is not surprising that Augustine’s view of the state of those infants who might die before baptism or in utero is a negative one. He says,
Even if there were in men nothing but original sin, it would be sufficient for their condemnation. For however much heavier will be their condemnation who have added their own sins to the original offence (and it will be the more severe in individual cases, in proportion to the sins of individuals); still, even that sin alone which was originally derived unto men not only excludes from the kingdom of God, which infants are unable to enter (as they themselves allow), unless they have received the grace of Christ before they die, but also alienates from salvation and everlasting life, which cannot be anything else than the kingdom of God, to which fellowship with Christ alone introduces us.
What he says here is that even if a person were not to commit any sin at all, and even in the case of infants and we may say those who die before birth, there is a such a condemnation due to every person because of the guilt of the sin of Adam which we all inherit according to his understanding, that it must exclude all from any participation in eternal life. This is not because of the separation from God due to the loss of the divine grace and life, but it is because, says Augustine, each person, even a new born infant, is already guilty of sin.
By the generation of the flesh only that sin is contracted which is original.
This proposes a view which is the opposite of St Cyril and St Severus. They insisted that we are not born sinful but mortal. Here, Augustine insists that we are all born sinful. But both St Cyril and St Severus teach that we cannot inherit any guilt or condemnation for sin from another’s sins, we are guilty only of our own. But Augustine’s views, followed to their conclusion, require him to state, as he does, that those infants who die before baptism, must find themselves in Hell and subject to condemnation, even if it is a light condemnation. He says,
That person, therefore, greatly deceives both himself and others, who teaches that they will not be involved in condemnation.
This is a novel idea which Augustine develops and which then has a great influence on the history of Western theology, leading it further away from Orthodoxy. We may certainly be sure that even an unborn child is mortal and without the gift of the divine life, but our Orthodox Fathers have not taught that such a child is condemned by God, either for her own sins or those of Adam. Rather such an infant is in a condition which entirely moves the love and mercy of God. If it was while we were yet sinners that Christ, the Son and Word of God, was incarnate and suffered and died for our sake, and if it was because God loves the world so much that the mystery of our salvation has taken place, how much does he love those he has created, and as Cyprian says, are fresh from the hands of God and are without any sin, though undoubtedly in need of the grace of God.
He says elsewhere,
For sins alone separate between men and God; and these are done away by Christ’s grace, through whom, as Mediator, we are reconciled, when He justifies the ungodly.
This seems to me to be a significantly different teaching. The Orthodox Fathers speak about death as the real issue, and that sin is an expression of this death. But since we are born into a state of death, which is separation from God, we need a reconciliation to take place, and for the Holy Spirit to be renewed in man. But Augustine views sin as the problem, and so he has to propose that even infants are sinful, and share in Adam’s sin. He doesn’t understand the problem as one of life and relationship, but of legal guilt and justification. The Orthodox teaching is that even is a person never sinned, they would still lack the divine life which was a gift to Adam. They would still lack immortality and incorruptibility. But the Augustinian approach is that all are guilty of sin, and therefore liable to judgement and punishment, but God has provided a way for us to escape this punishment in Christ. These are not the same ideas at all.
It is not surprising that the Augustinian model was further developed in the West. In the Middle Ages, Anselm described our situation as one in which God, who is infinite, had been infinitely offended by our sin, and therefore required an infinite satisfaction. This is simply a model taken from the feudalistic society in which Anselm found himself. The more important a person was who had been harmed or offended in some way, the more costly it was to satisfy their honour. This is not the Orthodox understanding at all, and is unknown until Anselm introduced it in the 11thcentury. None of the Fathers understand God as being offended by sin, on the contrary, the incarnation and the whole salvation history is always described as being rooted in the love of God for mankind. If there is ever a consideration of God’s honour, as in St Athanasius for instance, it is in the context of it being unworthy of God to allow his creation to fall into corruption.
To some extent these different views, the Orthodox and the Western, can be categorised as understanding our situation as one in which mankind needs healing and restoration, and one in which mankind needs to be able to escape a deserved punishment. These produce different views of the incarnation and of salvation as we shall see in later units.
In summary, then. Orthodoxy teaches that sin is a matter of the will and not the nature of man. It is a choice of that which is not God, for that which is not-life and light and being, however much it might appear desirable. Adam was created naturally mortal and corruptible but given at his creation a gift of divine life, the indwelling Holy Spirit which would have preserved him in immortality and incorruptibility. When he sinned he lost this gift and divine life, which remained as a spark, and he found himself immediately mortal, separated from God, and without any moral or spiritual constancy or strength. We inherit this state of mortality and separation from God, but we are not born sinful in any sense, or guilty of any sin. Indeed, an infant is not able to sin, since sin is a matter of reason and will. Nevertheless, all of us need the mercy and grace of God, because even if we never sin, we are still in this state of death. Augustine and those who followed him, introduced a new idea, that each of us are born sinful and guilty and therefore condemned by God. This distorts the Orthodox understanding and produces ideas of an angry God. But Orthodoxy is convinced that God is love, and in love he has acted to restore the intimate relationship which Adam once enjoyed and which he call us all to participate in.
5 Short Excerpts from the Theology of St. Athanasius the Great
On the Holy Trinity:
“The apostles were not interested in the images and analogies of plurality found in Scripture, nor in reconciling plurality and unity. But they certainly were concerned to explain, through the medium of Scripture, how the Lord Jesus relates to the one God, his Father, in the Spirit. This basic scriptural grammar of Trinitarian theology—that the one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made known in and through the Spirit—is preserved in the most abstract discussions of the fourth century, in the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople, and in liturgical language. Yet this fundamental grammar is overlooked when the point of these discussions is neglected and the resulting formulae are taken in abstraction, as referring to an “immanent” Trinity—one God existing in three Persons—which is then presupposed and superimposed upon the scriptural revelation. At this point, it is not enough simply to assert the identity of the “economic” Trinity and the “immanent” Trinity, or to emphasize that the “economic” basis of our knowledge of the Trinity—that it is only through the revelation of the Son in and through the Spirit that we can speak of God as Father—must correspond to how the Trinity actually is in “immanent” terms. These two dimensions of Trinitarian theology, economic and immanent, should never have been separated, even if they are subsequently reunited. That Trinitarian theology results from reflecting on how the crucified and exalted Lord Jesus Christ reveals the one and only God as Father, in and through the Holy Spirit, who also enables adopted sons crucified with Christ to call upon the same God as Father, means that Trinitarian theology has less to do with the heavenly existence of three divine persons than with this new manner of confessing the one God—as Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit. (Nicene Faith, I:7-8)”
On the Image of the eternal Word who would become Man:
“For God Maker of all and King of all, that has His Being beyond all substance and human discovery, inasmuch as He is good and exceeding noble, made, through His own Word our Saviour Jesus Christ, the human race after His own image, and constituted man able to see and know realities by means of this assimilation to Himself, giving him also a conception and knowledge even of His own eternity, in order that, preserving his nature intact, he might not ever either depart from his idea of God, nor recoil from the communion of the holy ones; but having the grace of Him that gave it, having also God’s own power from the Word of the Father, he might rejoice and have fellowship with the Deity, living the life of immortality unharmed and truly blessed. For having nothing to hinder his knowledge of the Deity, he ever beholds, by his purity, the Image of the Father, God the Word, after Whose image he himself is made. He is awe-struck as he contemplates that Providence which through the Word extends to the universe, being raised above the things of sense and every bodily appearance, but cleaving to the divine and thought-perceived things in the heavens by the power of his mind. For when the mind of men does not hold converse with bodies, nor has mingled with it from without anything of their lust, but is wholly above them, dwelling with itself as it was made to begin with, then, transcending the things of sense and all things human, it is raised up on high; and seeing the Word, it sees in Him also the Father of the Word, taking pleasure in contemplating Him, and gaining renewal by its desire toward Him; exactly as the first of men created, the one who was named Adam in Hebrew, is described in the Holy Scriptures as having at the beginning had his mind to God-ward in a freedom unembarrassed by shame, and as associating with the holy ones in that contemplation of things perceived by the mind which he enjoyed in the place where he was— the place which the holy Moses called in figure a Garden. So purity of soul is sufficient of itself to reflect God, as the Lord also says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Gent. 2)”
On the path of Saints:
“It is a fact, brothers and sisters, that the path of the saints in this life is one full of troubles. They either endure the pain of longing for that which is to come, like the one who said, ‘Woe is me that I have such a long pilgrimage’ (Ps. 120:5, LXX) or they are distressed by their longing for the salvation of others, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘I am afraid that whey I come to you, God may humble me and cause me to weep and mourn over many who have sinned and not repented of impurity, fornication and licentiousness which they have practiced.'”
On the fall from Heaven:
"And once more, if the devil, the enemy of our race, having fallen from heaven, wanders about our lower atmosphere, and there bearing rule over his fellow-spirits, as his peers in disobedience, not only works illusions by their means in them that are deceived, but tries to hinder them that are going up (and about this the Apostle says: According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience); while the Lord came to cast down the devil, and clear the air and prepare the way for us up into heaven, as said the Apostle: Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh [Heb. 10:20]— and this must needs be by death— well, by what other kind of death could this have come to pass, than by one which took place in the air, I mean the cross? For only he that is perfected on the cross dies in the air. Whence it was quite fitting that the Lord suffered this death. For thus being lifted up He cleared the air of the malignity both of the devil and of demons of all kinds, as He says: I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven; and made a new opening of the way up into heaven as He says once more: Lift up your gates, O you princes, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors."
Of Antony’s vision concerning the forgiveness of his sins:
". . .For once, when about to eat, having risen up to pray about the ninth hour, he perceived that he was caught up in the spirit, and, wonderful to tell, he stood and saw himself, as it were, from outside himself, and that he was led in the air by certain ones. Next certain bitter and terrible beings stood in the air and wished to hinder him from passing through. But when his conductors opposed them, they demanded whether he was not accountable to them. And when they wished to sum up the account from his birth, Antony’s conductors stopped them, saying, ‘The Lord has wiped out the sins from his birth, but from the time he became a monk, and devoted himself to God, it is permitted you to make a reckoning.’ Then when they accused him and could not convict him, his way was free and unhindered. And immediately he saw himself, as it were, coming and standing by himself, and again he was Antony as before. Then forgetful of eating, he remained the rest of the day and through the whole of the night groaning and praying. For he was astonished when he saw against what mighty opponents our wrestling is, and by what labours we have to pass through the air. And he remembered that this is what the Apostle said, ‘according to the prince of the power of the air [Ephesians 2:2.]’ For in it the enemy has power to fight and to attempt to hinder those who pass through. Wherefore most earnestly he exhorted, ‘Take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day [Ephesians 6:13],’ that the enemy, ‘having no evil thing to say against us, may be ashamed [Titus 2:8].’ And we who have learned this, let us be mindful of the Apostle when he says, ‘whether in the body I know not, or whether out of the body I know not; God knows [2 Corinthians 12:2].’ But Paul was caught up unto the third heaven, and having heard things unspeakable he came down; while Antony saw that he had come to the air, and contended until he was free."
|Intervention du Président de la Fédération de Russie Vladimir Poutine au sommet «Nouvelle route de la soie» à Pékin, 14 Mai 2017||16 Mai 2017 8:47|| |
Le 14 mai, Vladimir Poutine est intervenu au sommet «Nouvelle route de la soie» à Pékin. Lors de son allocution, le Président russe a nommé les causes de défis internationaux tels que le terrorisme et les migrations clandestines, et évoqué les moyens de les surmonter.
« Les idées d'ouverture et de libre-échange sont de plus en plus souvent rejetées aujourd'hui, notamment par ceux qui les soutenaient encore récemment. Les déséquilibres dans le développement social et économique et la crise de l'ancien modèle de mondialisation ont des répercussions négatives sur les relations internationales, ainsi que sur la sécurité internationale », a indiqué le Président russe.
M. Poutine a également souligné que la pauvreté, les inégalités sociales et l'écart de développement entre les pays de la région créaient un terreau fertile pour le terrorisme, l'extrémisme et les migrations clandestines.
« Nous ne règlerons pas ces défis si on ne surmonte pas la stagnation et l'immobilisme dans le développement économique mondial », a conclu le chef de l'Etat russe.
Des politiciens de premier plan de 100 pays — notamment 28 chefs d'État et de gouvernement — se réunissent les 14 et 15 mai au bord du lac Yanqi dans la banlieue de Pékin. Ils participent au sommet sur le projet « Une Ceinture, une route » (ou « Nouvelle route de la soie »), programme économique ambitieux attribuant à la Chine le rôle de principal pôle d'intégration dans la vaste région de l'Eurasie.
Le projet a été proposé par le président chinois Xi Jinping en automne 2013.Il implique la création de réseaux d'infrastructure de transport globaux réunissant jusqu'à 60 pays sur trois continents — en Asie, en Europe et en Afrique. En mai 2015, pendant la visite de Xi Jinping à Moscou, la Russie et la Chine ont signé une déclaration conjointe sur la coopération dans ce projet et ont même avancé plusieurs initiatives conjointes lors des forums économiques orientaux qui ont suivi.
Texte intégral de l'intervention (en Anglais): http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54491
Réponses aux questions de journalistes (en Anglais): http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54499
|SYNTHÈSES DE PRESSEDU JOUR|
C’est l’histoire d’un adolescent de 16 ans, qui a été enfermé seul dans sa cellule pendant 23 heures et demi par jour pendant son séjour dans une institution de jeunes délinquants, qui révèle une pratique très répandue dans certaines prisons de ce pays.
Selon son avocat, le jeune délinquant a passé en isolement cellulaire pendant presque l'intégralité de son temps à l'établissement de jeunes délinquants de Feltham dans l'ouest de Londres. Il n’avait aucun contact avec d'autres enfants et n'était autorisé qu'à se doucher, utiliser le téléphone ou faire de l’exercice seul, accompagné de deux gardiens, pendant 30 minutes par jour.
Et ce traitement serait une pratique courante qui serait donnée en réponse aux comportements difficiles des adolescents. Pourtant, l'isolement prolongé des enfants constitue un traitement cruel, inhumain ou dégradant et devrait être absolument interdit. Pour rappel, l’Angleterre a ratifié la Convention Internationale des Droits des Enfants le 16 décembre 1991.
Suite à cette affaire qui a fait l’objet d’une audience en révision, plusieurs autres enfants, détenus dans des prisons à travers le pays, ont demandé à la « League Howard for Penal Reform » - une association qui agit pour de meilleures conditions d’incarcération - de l'aide parce qu'ils sont presque totalement isolés. Certains d'entre eux ont été en isolement pendant jusqu'à neuf mois et ont été soumis à des régimes très similaires au cas du garçon de 16 ans. Ils ont été autorisés à sortir de leurs cellules pendant environ 30 minutes par jour, avec peu ou pas d'accès à l'éducation, un accès limité à l'exercice ou à l'air frais, et aucune association ou intervention significative.
Cette affaire intervient quelques jours après qu'un rapport du Comité Européen pour la Prévention de la Torture (CPT) ait révélé que les jeunes délinquants britanniques avaient subi un « traitement inhumain et dégradant » en raison de leur isolement dans les prisons du pays en violation flagrante de la Convention européenne des droits de l'homme.
(Source : Howard League)
SIGNEZ LA PETITION POUR LA LIBERATION DES DEUX EVÊQUES QUIDNAPES EN SYRIE /PETITION ON THE ABDUCTION OF THE TWO HIERARCHS OF ALEPPO SYRIAToujours aucune nouvelle d'eux....Nous espérons...
*Rappel des faits:
Le 22 avril 2013, Mgr Yohanna (Jean) Ibrahim, archevêque syriaque orthodoxe d’Alep, et Mgr Boulos (Paul) Yazigi, archevêque grec orthodoxe de la même ville, étaient enlevés à l’ouest d’Alep en Syrie. Les deux évêques s’étaient rendus en voiture,fraternellement, avec un chauffeur, dans cette région pour tenter de négocier la libération de deux prêtres enlevés en février précédent : le Père Michel Kayyal (catholique arménien) le le Père Maher Mahfouz (grec-orthodoxe). C’est l’un des enlèvements les plus étranges en période de guerre puisqu’il n’y a eu aucune revendication. Même les médias ne s’intéressent pas beaucoup à cette affaire, jugée peu sulfureuse et surtout incompréhensible. Pour cette raison, le site Internet grec Pemptousia met en ligne une pétition (en anglais) pour la libération de deux hiérarques. Pour la signer,pétition relayée en France par Orthodoxie.com et nous-même cliquez ICI !
N'oublions-pas de prier pour les évêques, prêtres et
fidèles chrétiens détenus par les "islamistes"