Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Call for Submissions for Patristics Carnival XIX

I can't believe I'm posting this on Christmas Eve. Ah well, there is still a week before the end of the month and I'm calling for patristic entries for Patristics Carnival XIX. This month, we're back here at hyperekperissou.

The guidelines remain the same as the Modest Proposal entry back in November, 2006 and my additions in August, 2007.

The last day of submission will be December 31 and the postings will be up by the week of January 10th. (I'll be away until the 3rd).

Remember you can offer submissions on the carnival site or the dedicated e-mail (

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Doing Advent

Advent is time of waiting and expectation. All of us who attend liturgical churches know that and all of us know how much a challenge that waiting is amid the craziness of the Christmas season these days. For me, the weeks leading up to Advent and Advent itself involve marking, lesson preparation and the standard running-around which life as a teacher entails. By the time Advent comes around, I'm usually worn to a frazzle and trying to squeeze out the last reserves just to get done what I need to get done before the Christmas holidays really begin.

I don't think this overwhelmed feeling is uncommon at all. All of us are busy this time of year and Christmas preparations and socializing just add to that load. It is hard to find time to wait quietly and to reflect on the coming of Jesus, both on that night more than two thousand years ago and in the coming age (whenever that is). That is the dilemma that I found myself in this year...again.

As Advent started this year, I found myself catching up marking from a busy November, taking on an additional task at school (which I should never have taken on--when will I learn!) and I was getting very cranky. Two or three days into Advent, I was muttering under my breath that I didn't feel like I would get any Advent this year. That woke me up. Something was very wrong with my attitude and with me, if I was feeling that way so early in Advent.

That was when a thought came to my head: why not just leave work at work, do what I can and take Advent back for myself? Sounds simple doesn't it? Simple and, frankly, a little scary, given how behind I was feeling. How was I supposed to get work done and have Advent? Won't I just fall further behind and get more stressed, instead of relieving my stress by getting the work out of the way, even if it meant flogging myself to get things done? Given the way that my brain works, that actually made sense to me and made the decision that I was making seem a little crazy. I still made it, but with some trepidation.

So, what happened? I'd love to say that I was perfect in my resolution and didn't bring work home (I did a couple nights towards the end of the period, but only less than an hour's worth of work each night). I'd love to say that I had spiritual epiphanies each night (many nights I fell asleep reading or watching TV). I'd love to say that I had a fresh understanding of Christ child and the incarnation (see the previous parenthesis).

What did happen is that, instead of my stress increasing, I found it dropping and my productivity at school so much greater because I knew the work needed to get done there. I found I could take the time out to pray and to reflect (at least, before I fell asleep) on what Christ has meant to my life. I found I had time for my wife and son which was wonderful. I found I could be grateful for the good things in my life and to have compassion for others around me in a way I don't think I could have without that time. All those things are precious gifts and slowing down for Advent was what enabled me to receive them peacefully.

So, as Advent winds to a close, I'm still trying to keep a peaceful Advent. I still have some school work I want to get done. I still have many other tasks clamouring for my attention, but I still want to take the time out to wait for the coming of the Lord. There is always more things to do and there are more and better ways to keep Advent than the simple action I took this year. Still, I hope this is a start to a deepening of my Advent experiences. With God's help, I hope that the Advent season will be a time for us to prepare ourselves to meet Christ again; in prayer, in those we help and in those around us.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin 24

Here is the next installment of the Life of St. Martin. Enjoy!


It is necessary to note, however, that there was, at almost the same time, a young man in Spain, who gained authority for himself with many signs. He was so puffed that he claimed he was Elijah. (2) When many people rashly believed this, he went on to say that he was Christ. In this claim, he deceived people to the point that a certain bishop, Rufus, venerated him as God because of which we see that he was later deposed from his bishopric. (3) Very many from our brothers reported that, at the same time, a certain person arose in the East, who boasted that he was John (the Baptist). From these events, we are able to conclude that, since false prophets of this type were arising, the advent of the Anti-Christ, who is already practicing through these people the mystery of iniquity, was at hand.

(4) But it seems that it is necessary not to ignore by what trickery the devil tempted Martin in these days. On that day, after prayers were made previously, the devil, being surrounded in purple light so that he might deceive people more easily by the brightness of the shining light, clothed even in royal clothing, wreathed with a diadem made out of gems and gold, his shoes gilded with gold, with a serene face and a happy expression so that he would be reckoned as anyone else except the devil, himself stood next to Martin, who was praying in his cell (5) Since Martin was stupefied by the first appearance of him, both held much silence for a long time. Then, the devil first said "Martin, recognize who you perceive: I am Christ. I will come down to the earth, but I first wanted to show myself to you." (6) When Martin was silent and did not respond to this, the devil dared to repeat the boldness of his profession: "Martin, why do you hesitate to believe, when you see it? I am Christ". (7) Martin, since the Spirit uncovered what was happening so that he perceived that this was the devil and not the Lord, said "Jesus did not say he will come clothed in purple and shining with a diadem. I will not believe that Jesus came unless in that same clothing and form in which he suffered, unless bearing forth the marks of the cross."(8) In answer to this, the devil at once disappeared alike smoke and filled the cell with such a stench that it left undoubted evidence that this was the devil. This happened as I reported above. I learned about it from Martin's own mouth. No one should reckon it fabulous.


This passage represents the climax of both the section dealing with Martin's dealings with the demons and the devil himself and of the whole Life of St. Martin. We have already seen an escalation in the seriousness of the human and diabolical enemies of Martin, but here we pass into eschatological language which places Martin into the midst of what is framed as the beginning of the Last Days. We can see that the first paragraph of this section sets the eschatological expectation which is central to the passage. Through his references to the false prophets in this paragraph and in the previous section (see section 23) which featured the would-be prophet, Anatolius, Sulpicius sets up his conclusion that he (and, by implication, Martin) was already living during the coming of the Anti-Christ. All this sets the stage for Martin's direct encounter with the devil.

Furthermore, this encounter is also, as many of the incidents in this work, meant to allude to Jesus' own life; specifically, Jesus' temptation by the devil (Matthew 4, 1-11; Mark 1, 12-13; Luke 4, 1-13). The content of the temptation is, of course, different. St. Martin isn't Christ. Yet, the pattern is similar. The devil tries to use the expectations set up in the Bible as a cloak to lure his intended victim to worship him and, thus, turn him from a true man of God to a false prophet such as the ones already noted by Sulpicius in the early part of this passage. He is foiled because the 'victim', through the Holy Spirit, sees through the fallacy of the devil's exegesis and his trickery. Thus, St. Martin sees through the 'coming again in glory' of the devil by noting that the wounds of Christ are not in prominent display as they should be in the real 'coming again in glory' of Christ. This results in the devil disappearing, quite literally, in a puff of smoke, the victim of St. Martin's superior spiritual discernment.

What I find particularly fascinating in this passage, however, is how St. Martin saw through the deception of the devil. Really, the vision of Christ's return provided here by the devil was a shrewd re-enactment. In St. Martin's time (and our own, in certain circles), the Second Coming was depicted as a purely martial event in which a mighty king will descend to smite the enemies of Christians all over the world. This. of course, picks up the imagery in Revelation 19, hence, is Biblical, as far as it goes. It, also, appeals to the expectations of those who joined the Church because it was the winning side in the politics of the Late Roman Empire or those who feel left out by the secularization of Western countries in the last century or so. Yet, as St. Martin recognizes, this is, by itself, an inadequate basis to judge that the Second Coming has occurred because it is too easy to be dazzled by glory in all its manifestations and miss the truly unique element of Jesus' incarnation- his self-sacrifice for us.

This is why St. Martin's declaration that he would not believe that Christ came unless he saw him in the same appearance as he left and bearing the wounds of the cross is so interesting. The latter proof may strike us as odd because St. Thomas is slightly rebuked by Jesus for insisting on seeing the same marks before believing Jesus' resurrection (John 20, 24-29). As an aside, I wonder if we over-do the emphasis on Thomas' doubt here, but this passage also establishes that Christ's wounds will remain as a mark of what He has done for us. This also picks up the image of the slain Lamb from earlier in Revelation (Revelation, 5,6-14) in the sense that the marks of the Lamb's slaughter remain, even while it is opening the Seven Seals which begin the final war against evil.

What all this suggests is that Christ's Second Coming will not only be a return in glory, but that the marks of the glory would be what were, before the resurrection, considered the marks of a shameful death. In that sense, what Christians should look for as marks of glory is not what the world and, here, the devil, think it should be-crowns and royal trappings- but, rather, the wounds inflicted on Jesus to humiliate him, but which provided him the means by which he defeated sin and death. That, by implication, is the true glory and what we Christians should be looking for in any Second Coming. The failure of the devil to understand this meant that, when he wanted to trick St. Martin, he missed entirely what the point of Jesus' first coming was. Given how big a mistake that was, is there any wonder that he simply didn't understand what the Second Coming will look like?

So, the devil's mistake here isn't just one of too much reliance on external glory on the analogy of the financier in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who choose (unwisely) the gold-encrusted goblet as the true Grail. It was a fundamental failure to discern the cosmic Judo move which the Incarnation represents when the power of sin and death was broken by Jesus' willingness to sacrifice himself for us. Here, St. Martin reaches to the core of the meaning of the resurrection by recognizing from where Jesus' true glory comes.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Patristics Carnival XVIII- November, 2008

Welcome to Patristics Carnival XVIII. It has been a busy month. I hope you enjoy the offerings for this month.

New Under the Tent

Nothing new this month.

Front Gate: Introductions to the Fathers

Michael Haykin on the Reformata blog discusses the evangelical revival in patristic studies and its roots in the Puritan-Baptist tradition.

The Midway: Articles on the Fathers

Mike Aqulina on The Way of the Fathers blog discusses the cult of the saints in the patristic era, reprints part of an interview he had with the National Catholic Register about the Fathers, announces his new book, The Early Church, announces a second book, A Companion Guide to Pope Benedict's The Fathers.

Chad Pullins on the keeping the faith, never losing hope, always loving blog reflects on St. Irenaeus' concept of the fall as Adam (and, through him, humanity) growing up too fast.

Kevin on the Courting the Mystery blog offers an introduction to the patristic understanding of deification, summarizes a paper by Pak-Wah Lei, a PhD. candidate at the University of Durham on Moses as an exemplar in patristic writing

Kent Brandenburg on the What is Truth? blog examines the traditional evangelical understanding of the canon.

Kate on the kt-rae blog expresses her gratitude to the Fathers, even while preparing for a Church History exam (which is high praise, really. I usually felt bitter when I was studying for exams)

David Waltz on the Articuli Fidei blog examines what Arius may have actually taught.

William J. Tsamis on the Fidei Defensor examines the two most prominent non-Christian sources on the life of Christ, Josephus and Tacitus.

Tony-Allen on A Cathechumen's Tale offers a simple exegesis of the Nicene Creed.

Adam Couchman on the Set Apart in Christ blog wonders whether we will ever get past Augustine (I hope not! I happy to like Auggie!)

armsopenwide on the Arms Open Wide blog features a discussion of St. John Chrysosthom as a resource for helping parents of developmentally disabled children.

Roger Pearse on his self-named blog muses over whether Lampe's Patristic Lexicon could be made available online (pant-pant-pant- that's the sound of patristic scholars all over the English-speaking world). He discusses Gospel catenae with an introduction and posts on catenae on Matthew, Mark, Luke, John as well as Harnack's discussion of Gospel catenae. He notes an upcoming edition (hopefully) of St. Cyril of Alexandria's Contra Iulianum, muses on the reading of Crestianus vs Christianus in Tacitus, puzzles over a difficult Greek passage in Eusebius, notes a translation of Eusebius' Chronicle from Armenian,

frinls on the Cafe Church Leeds blog reflects on her community's early encounters with the Fathers (and Mothers).

suburban banshee on the Aliens in this World reflects insightfully on the relationship between women and the Church Fathers. (I particularly enjoyed voting Tertullian as the Father most likely to have a second career as a Bond villain).

Greg Boyd on his self-named blog analyses the influence of Hellenistic philosophy on the wording of the Chalcedonian Creed.

On the Bible Truth Online blog, St. Polycarp is contrasted favourably with St. Jerome.

David Brosnahan on the LDS Doctrine blog discusses the relationship of the early Church Fathers (unlike the later ones who the Church of Latter-Day Saints consider heretical) to the doctrine of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, focusing primarily on St. Justin Martyr's position on the Trinity (selectively, to be sure).

Hierothee on the Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex blog considers whether the Council of Nicaea should be considered as more relevant to modern Catholics than Vatican II.

Andrew on the Theology of Andrew blog muses on the similarities between Englightement Deism and the Church Fathers.

kepha on the fides quaerens intellectum critisizes the assumption that Protestants can't remain Protestant and read the Fathers.

logismon on the diakrisis logismon blog compares the Orthodoxy tradition in reading the Bible to a scientific tradition, while contrasting this approach to the Frankish (read Western) tradition.

Will Huysmann on the Banana Republican blog considers whether Origen should be considered a Church Father.

Deacon Jim on his self-named blog deals with criticism that the Fathers, especially St. John Chrysosthom was anti-Semitic.

Jim Davilla on the PaleoJudaica blog reports that Paula Fredrickson, in her new book, Augustine and the Jews, defends Augustine's view of the Jews.

Mike Aubrey on the en epheso blog discusses a textual problem in Mandates 3.3. As a side note, Mike would put many classicists to shame in his desire to learn more about how Greek works. And that is really saying something! Wow! My brain is pudding just looking at his titles.

Rick Brennan on ricoblog discusses 1st Clement's 'love' chapter.

Ben Myers on the Faith and Theology blog explains St. Augustine's doctrine of grace by means of a song by Iron Wine.

Tim Trautman on the Army of Martyrs blog discusse St. Cyprian on unity, follows up with a post on how St. Cyprian would react to the possibility of a divided Church (note much, I can tell you), continues with a discussion of St. Cyprian's attitude to Eucharistic sacrifice and St. Cyprian on unity and the body.

On this blog, I muse on St. Gregory Nazianzus' view on the task of theology.

The Marketplace: Book Reviews

Brendon on the Christian Books: Orthodoxy blog reviews a translation of Writings from St. Maximus by Robert Wilikin and Andrew Louth, published in the Popular Patristics series from St. Vladimir Press. He also reviews Norman Russell's book, The Doctrine of Deification in Greek Patristic Authors.

Tristen on Christian Books: Orthodoxy offers a review of Rodney Whitacre's A Patristic Reader.

Seamus MacDonald on the Compliant Subversity blog reposts his review of D.H. Williams' book, Evangelicals and Tradition.

Deanna on the Notlukewarm blog reviews Mike Aquilina's new book, Signs and Mysteries.

Philip Sumpter on the Narrative and Ontology blog reviews Nicene Christianity: The Future for a New Ecumenism, Christopher Seitz editor. He follows up with an analysis of articles which he didn't feature in his previous post.

Exhibition Place: Biographies of the Fathers

Christine on the A Catholic View blog introduces us to St. Leo the Great.

Sornchai on the Back to School books blog reprints the Amazon reviews of Michael Holmes' 3rd edition of the Apostolic Fathers.

The Rodeo: Patristic catenae

Tiber Jumper on the Crossed the Tiber blog offers a short catena on Mary.

The Foreign Exchange Tent: Translations

On this blog, I continue my series of translations from Sulpicius Severus' Life of St. Martin.

The Talmudic Tabernacle: Christianity and Judaism in the Ancient World

This is an experimental category, but given the influence of Judaism and the parallel developments of the Talmud and the Fathers (who might be considered a Christian Talmud, or so it seems to me some days). Yes, I'm aware I'm openning a whole new can of worms.

Weekend Fisher on the Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength blog discusses the Jewish concept of the resurrection in light of the Talmudic Feast of the Blessed and in the analogy of the seed.

Philip Sumpter on the Narrative and Ontology blog discusses the Mishna as revelation.

Kevin Edgecomb on the Biblicalia blog continues his notes on Jacob Neusner's The Theology of the Oral Torah with parts 11 and 12. Kevin has posted the previous parts of this series for readers conveniently.

The Apocryphal Aisle: Christian Apocrypha

Tony Chartrand-Burke on the Apocryphicity blog discusses the role of women in the Gospel of Thomas and continues his answers to responses on his "Heresy Hunting" paper.

April De Conick on The Forbidden Gospel blog reports on the Judas section at the SBL convention this month.

Well, that is it for the month. I hope you enjoyed these posts and I hope you have a quiet and worshipful Advent!