Sunday, July 31, 2011

E-scribe to Escrivá



"Read these counsels slowly.
Pause to meditate on these thoughts.

They are things that I whisper in your

ear--confiding them--as a friend, as a
brother, as a father.

And they are being heard by God.

I won't tell you anything new.

I will only stir your memory,

so that some thought will arise
and strike you;

and so you will better your life

and set out along ways of prayer
and of Love.

And in the end you will be
a more worthy soul."
--Prologue to The Way

St. Josemaría Escrivá is a 20th-century Spanish saint who founded Opus Dei (which has gotten an unfairly bad rap due to its inclusion in Dan Brown's infamous The Da Vinci Code). As the Wikipedia article states (bad source, I know), Opus Dei "teaches that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity." These teachings are found in the saint's writings, which I and may others have drawn inspiration from. His works are separated into many tiny sections, each with only a paragraph or two of writing. Yet these simple passages are profound and inspiring.

I'm offering you a chance to receive inspiration from St. Josemaría Escrivá. I have three of his works: The Way, Furrow, and The Forge. Each day (or as close to each day as I can: I'm not perfect!) I'll send out a passage from one of these works to provide inspiration for your spiritual journey with Jesus Christ. Just click the link below to send me an e-mail, and I'll add you to my list. I hope this project is helpful to you!

Due to copyright concerns, this mailing list is no longer active.  

St. Josemaría Escrivá, pray for us!


Nota Bene: I'll be using the Scepter Publisher's one-volume edition of the saint's three works listed above for this project.

Friday, July 29, 2011

St. Gregory Palamas on the Graven Images


"You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God" (Ex 20:4-5a).

God's forbidding of graven images is a part of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) that I do not hear mentioned often among Catholics. Since the Decalogue does not have a strict division in the Scriptures themselves, there are multiple ways to divide them. The division commonly used by the Orthodox and most Protestants lists "I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before Me" and "You shall not make for yourself a graven image" as two separate commandments, while combining "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods" and "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife" into one commandment. The division commonly used by Catholics and many Lutherans, however, combines the first pair into one, while separating the second pair.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Readings on the Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene


The Church is wise: this is a truth I am reminded of frequently, through various ways. One of these ways is through her selection of Scriptures for the Mass. One of the greatest reforms of the Mass during Vatican II, in my mind, is the ability of the Liturgy of the Word to now draw on all of the Scriptures, not only the Epistles, and to draw on more texts throughout its cycle. The Church has picked these readings carefully so that the Gospel often coheres with the other Scriptures immensely well, particularly on Sundays and solemnities.

The particular incident lately that reminded me of the Church's wisdom in her Scripture selection is the selection of readings for the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene, July 22. The readings for this day in the Proper of Saints are Sgs 3:1-4b (or 2 Cor 5:14-17, though the former is the one I discuss in this post), Ps 63:2,3-4,5-6,8-9, and Jn 20:1-2,11-18. The first reading is a selection from the Song of Songs in which the Bride searches for her beloved, yet cannot find him; after she runs into some watchmen, though, she finally finds her beloved. The response for the psalm is "My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God," a proper sentiment for this reading. The Gospel is the appearance of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday.

Typology is a fascinating technique of Scripture study in which, by the plan of God, persons and events described in the Old Testament are seen to be prefigurements of those in the New Testament. Two common examples are Adam being seen as a type of Christ (as Paul mentions) and the Flood being seen as a type of Baptism (as the Letter to the Hebrews discusses). (A sidenote: a "type" is that which prefigures; an "antitype" is that which is prefigured.)

In these readings (as the Church most likely intended), I see Mary Magdalene as an antitype of the Bride in the Song of Songs. In even more specific detail, I see the Bride's search for her Bridegroom as the type of Mary Magdalene's search for Jesus' body. Mary Magdalene is already seen as a follower of Christ in Lk 8:2, where she is among the women who accompanies Jesus during His ministry. Since the call to be a follower of Christ is the call to love Him, He is, at least in some sense, the beloved of her soul, as the Bride in Song of Songs often refers to her Bridegroom. Yet the really striking typology comes in the specific incidents selected for the day's readings.

The first reading is the lament of a Bride's fruitless search for her beloved:

"I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and the crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.

I sought him but I did not find him."


In the Gospel, Mary Magdalene searches for Christ's body but cannot find it:

"On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, 'They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him.'"

In both incidents, the women run into others:

"The watchmen came upon me."

Like the Bride, Mary Magdalene found watchmen:

"Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there."

Though angels are technically messengers (the word "angel" comes from the Greek word for "messenger"), they can also be seen as "watchmen," watching for the arrival of Christ's apostles and disciples. (Another antitype could be seen in that, in Matthew's account, Mt 28:1-10, there are actually guards ("watchmen") at the tomb when Mary Magdalene, and later the angel, arrives.)

The last point is what really shocked me with the typology. The end of the first reading is the following:

"The watchmen came upon me,
I had hardly left them

when I found him whom my heart loves."

In the Gospel, when the angels ask Mary why she is weeping, she responds by saying someone has taken her Lord, and she does not know where she is. The next words, right after she speaks to the angels, are these:

"When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there."

This was a detail I had never noticed before. I always assumed Mary Magdalene walked a little down a path before she ran into Jesus in the guise of a gardener. Instead, it is immediately after she speaks to the angels. She literally turns around, and she is face-to-face with the risen Lord. It is hard to do a job of having "hardly left" someone better than by turning around. It is with this detail that the typology in these readings clicked, and I saw the Church's immense wisdom in selecting these Scriptures.

In conclusion, I urge you to be more conscious of the Church's wisdom in her selection of Mass readings. She put great care into showing how the Old Testament is not null and void, but instead it is enlivened in the New Testament. As St. Augustine said (though I am paraphrasing), "The New is hidden in the Old, and the Old is unveiled in the New." Keep watch of this truth as you listen to and pray with the readings at Mass. I think it will help you gain more of a sense of the cohesion of God's plan and of the Catholic faith.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Introduction to Mystery


The seeking of knowledge is something that has always captivated man. Man wished to know time, so he recorded it and created calendars based on his recordings. Man wished to know the patterns of the stars, so he watched them each night and grouped them into constellations based on what he saw. Man wished to know the workings of animals, plants, and men themselves, so he studied them and wrote books of anatomy and biology based on his observations. Yet even beyond the seeking of this knowledge and information, which can have value in a man's labors in the fields, man sought wisdom, which, as Aristotle says, "exists for its own sake"; "we do not seek [wisdom] for the sake of any other advantage" (Metaphysics, I.2, 982b24-27).

Aristotle remarks on why men philosophize, although his remarks can be broadened to refer to any seeking of wisdom: "It is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize" (ibid., 982b12-13). Men wonder about that which they do not know, for "a man who is puzzled and wonders thinks himself ignorant" (ibid., 982b17-18).

These comments on wisdom are merely the part of the preface to the topic of this post. For what is it that man wonders most about? That which he is most ignorant of. And what is he most ignorant of? That which he can know least. That is God.

A troubling concept that has become prominent is that man's knowledge is limitless: there are things man does not yet know because he has yet to learn them, not because he cannot learn them. Science, the main avenue of human knowledge, is, respectively, where this concept is seen the most. It can take a disturbing turn, for instance, in psychology, where schools such as behaviorism attempt to reduce the human person to a series of reactions and responses deriving from the brain, with no free will whatsoever.

This idea is not restrained to science, though: it sneaks into theology and spirituality as well. Theology is often speculative: there is only so much in theology that can be considered certain. There are dogmas and doctrines that the Church is certain of, yet there are other issues that will never be solidified. One such issue is the common debate whether God could have redeemed humanity without the death of His Son. While it is an interesting discussion, it must be remembered that it is only speculative: we cannot know God's thoughts for certain. That is thing many do not realize: we, as humans, can only know as much about God as He is willing to reveal: we cannot completely comprehend Him.

All this introduction leads to the concept I wish to discuss: the concept of mystery, specifically the mystery of God. God is mysterious. This is a fact. A mystery is something which must be revealed: it cannot be taken by force. If this applies to any mystery in general, how much more must it apply to God!

This post will not be my last on this topic, as the title shows. My goal in discussing mystery is to draw out and discuss this topic as it appears in theology and spirituality. It seems to have lost popularity recently, but it is not gone. "Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so...Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God" (CCC #40, 42).

Mystery appears as a concept more in the early Church and the Eastern Church, so that is where I will draw most of my material from. I do not know how many posts I will write about this: since the topic is the inability to completely know God, I do not think it is possible for me to completely encompass the topic, no matter how many posts I write. It will depend on how much the Spirit moves me to write, how much He wants to reveal to me and how much He wants me to reveal to others.

Now I think I have made this introduction long enough, so I will end with a quote that summarizes the point well. It is from Chapter 4 of the first book of St. John Damascene's De fide orthodoxa (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith):

"God is infinite and incomprehensible. And there is one thing about the divine essence that can be comprehended: namely, that the divine is infinite and incomprehensible."

St. John Damascene, pray for us!




Nota bene: I quote from W.D. Ross' translation of the Metaphysics, from The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard McKeon. "CCC" stands for Catechism of the Catholic Church. The quote from St. John Damascene was quoted in St. Bonaventure's Disputed Questions on the Knowledge of Christ, Question VI, Argument for the Negative Position 1, translated by Zachary Hayes, O.F.M., D.Th.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fray Luis de León Introduction and Cantar de Cantares -- Prologue


Fray Luis de León was an Augustinian friar in Spain during the 1500s. He wrote much, both prose and poetry. Aside from his lyric poetry, his best-known work (and only one easily available in English translation) is The Names of Christ, recently printed as part of Paulist Press' "Classics of Western Spirituality" series. Among his other prose works are La perfecta casada, a marriage handbook based on Proverbs 31, and Traducción literal y declaración del libro de los cantares de Salomón, often abbreviated as Cantar de Cantares. As the name says, Cantar de Cantares is a literal translation and explanation of the book of the Song of Songs.

I cannot find an English translation of the Cantar de Cantares online, so I decided to try my hand at my own translation. I must admit, I am not a professional translator, and I cannot vouch for any high technical value in this translation. I am only working on a Spanish minor, and this is also medieval Spanish, so it's more difficult to translate. The goal is to get across, at the least, the overall message of Fray Luis' book. I will include a summary of each section that I translate with the post, and I will include notes attempting to explain bits of my translation. Any words I have trouble translating will be included in braces. Hopefully this translation provides some service to all non-Spanish speakers reading this.

And for anyone who wants to look at the original Spanish, I found it here.

I hope you find this translation helpful!

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In the prologue, Fray Luis discusses God's love for us, which is shown in His benefits to us. His Spirit conforms itself to our style and our love, with all its passions and affections, so that we are not separated from His grace. All the Scriptures show this, but the Song of Songs shows it in the most passionate detail. The passion in this book is so strong that it is almost dangerous to study. There is a spiritual sense to this book, with the words describing the mysteries of Christ's Incarnation and His love for the Church: this has been explained better by holier men in greater books. Instead, Fray Luis will merely discuss the meanings of the words themselves, with he says is still difficult, due to two main reasons: one, it is always difficult to make language accurately match the passion of the heart; two, the Hebrew language is a language with its own customs, from a different people of a different time, making the sayings of the book seem strange to us now. Fray Luis sets out to produce a translation as literal to the Hebrew as possible; he also sets out to provide explanations of the more obscure passages of the book (these explanations follow the translations). His wish is to have done what was commanded him [by his cousin, for whom he composed this work: she is the one addressed in the prologue].

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Prologue

Nothing is more proper to God than love; neither is there anything more natural to love than returning to that which loves in the same conditions and the genius of that which is loved; of the one and of the other we have clear experiences. Certain it is that God loves us, and all who are not very blind are able to know this for sure by the important benefits that are constantly received from His hand: being, life, the government of {life}, and the protection of His favor that in no time or place will abandon us. That God appreciates this more than any other thing, and that it is proper that the love between all virtues is seen in His works, that all order themselves to this end, that it is to be distributed and put in the possession of the greater good of creatures, making it so that the same similarity shines in all, and measuring itself to each one of them so that it can be enjoyed by all, that as we say {diximos?}, is the proper work of love. Importantly this benefit and love of God is discovered in man, that which was raised in the beginning in His image and likeness as another God, and in the end made God in his image and likeness, returning man ultimately to nature, and much before by deal and conversation, as is seen clearly in all the discourse of the Sacred Scriptures, in those which for this cause it is a marvelous thing, the warning the Holy Spirit put in conforming himself with our style (in the end so we do not separate ourselves {nos estrañemos?} from Him who loves us infinitely), mimicking our language, and imitating proportionately all the variety of our genius and conditions: such as making oneself happy and sad, showing oneself angry and repentant, sometimes threatening, sometimes conquering with a thousand kindnesses; and there is no love or quality so proper to us and so strange to Him that He will not take on. The Psalms of David testify to this, and much more so the writings of the Holy Prophets; but nothing so much as the Book of the Songs that we have in our hands, where God shows Himself wounded, and all to the end that we do not flee from Him or separate ourselves from His grace; and that defeated, or by love, or by embarrassment, we would make it so that He advises us, for it is in this that our greatest happiness consists. Testifying to this are the verses and songs of David, the speeches and sermons of the Saints and Prophets, the advice of Wisdom, and finally all the life and doctrine of Jesus Christ, light and truth, and all our good and our hope. For among the rest of the divine Scriptures, one is the gentlest song that Solomon, King and Prophet, composed, in which he shows {debaxo?} an enamored reasoning, and between the two, Shepherd and Shepherdess, more than in any other Scripture, God is shown wounded by our loves with all of our passions and sentiments, that this affection paves {suele?} and is able to make human hearts softer and more tender. He prays, He cries and is jealous, He goes out desperate, and He returns later; and varying between hope, fear, joy and sadness, He already sings of contentment, He already publishes His complaints, making testimony to the mountains and their trees, to the animals and to the springs of the shame He suffers. Here are seen living paintings of the loving fires of true lovers, the burning desires, the perpetual cares, the vigorous distresses that absence and fear cause in them, together with the jealousies and suspicions that move between them: here is heard the sound of the ardent sighs, messengers of the heart, and of the loving complaints and sweet reasonings that sometimes are seen coming from hope, and other times from fear; and in short all sentiments that the passionate lovers set out to prove are seen here as sharp and delicate, as lively and pure in the divine love as in the mundane. It tells us with the most delicate of words, the kindliest of compliments, the most special of the most beautiful comparisons, that were never written or heard elsewhere; because of this the lesson of this book is difficult for all, and dangerous to the youth and to all who are not far advanced and firm in virtue; because in no other Scripture is the passion of love explained with more strength and feeling as in this one: and in such a manner among the Hebrews no one had license to read this Book or some others of the Law if he was under the age of forty years. There is no need to deal with danger: the virtue and valor of Your Mercy makes us sure of this: there is much difficulty, and I will work enough to increase my strengths, for they are of little good.

It is a thing certain and known that in these songs how in the person of King Solomon and his Spouse the daughter of the King of Egypt shown {debaxo?} in amorous compliments the Lord explains the Incarnation of Christ and the intimate love He always has for His Church, with other secrets of great mystery and great weight. This sense, which is spiritual, I do not have to handle; because of it there are written great books by very holy and learned persons, who are rich in the same Spirit who spoke in this book, who understood a great part of its secret, that are full of spirit and gift. In this part there is nothing to be said like that, because it is already said, because it is a detailed manner of great space; I will only have to work in explaining the shell of the writing straight-forwardly, since in this book there has been no greater secret than that which the naked words show, in the appearance of the sayings and responses between Solomon and his Spouse, so that only the sound of them will be explained and in this is the strength of the comparison and the compliment; even though it is work of less carats than the first, it does not for that lack the great difficulties that we will see later. Because it is to be understood that this book was in its first origin written in meter, and it is all a Pastoral Eclogue where with words and language of Shepherds Solomon and his Spouse, and sometimes their companions, speak, as if they were people of a small village. The first understanding is made difficult by that which puts difficulty in all the Scriptures where are explained the great passions and major affections of love, that is seems reasons cut and taken aback go; though once the truth is understood the thread of the passion that moves, they respond marvelously to the affections that explain, those which birth some from others naturally; and the cause of appearing so cut is that in the soul vehemently dominated by some passion language does not catch up with the heart, nor is one able to speak as one feels, and even if one can, one cannot say all, except partly, once the principle of reason, and another time the end without the beginning: and in this way the one who loves much says it, that it seems when he takes note of it, it is less understood; and passion with its strength and with incredible swiftness snatches language and heart from one affection to another, and from here are the reasons cut because the movement responds that makes the passion in the soul of it that says these them; he who does not feel or see it, judges them badly, as one would judge as delirious and of a bad brain the fidgeting of those who dance, seeing them from afar he would not perceive who they follow: this is much to be warned in this Book and in all similar to it. The second thing that creates obscurity is the Hebrew language in which it was written, of its propriety and condition, a language of few words and cut reasons, and those are filled with a diversity of feelings, and together with that is the style and judgment of things in that time and among that people so different from the talk now; from this is born the fact that to us the comparisons that are used in this book seem new and strange and out of all good delicacy, when the Husband and Wife want to praise more the beauty of the other: such as when the neck is compared to a tower, and the teeth to a flock of sheep, and other such similarities. Such is the truth that each language and each people have their own ways of speaking where the custom used and received makes it so that what is delicacy and kindness in another language and in other peoples would appear very rough; it is from this that all that grows, that now by the novelty and by the agency {ageno?} of our use all good speech and all the courtesy of that time among that people is crude to us. Because it is clear that Solomon was not only very wise, but also King and son of a King; and when he would not catch up by writings and doctrines, by only rearing and by only the deal of the cut and house he was known to speak better and more courteous language than any other. What I make in this is two things; one is the word for word translation {literally “returning”} in our language of the text of this Book: in the second I explain briefly not each word, but the passages that offer some obscurity in writing, and finally that the entire sense stays clear, and after that the explanation. Near the beginning I will endeavor to conform myself as much as is possible to the original Hebrew, comparing together with the Greek and Latin translations that there are, that are many; and hoping that this interpretation would be responded to the original not only in the sentences and words, but in the currents and air of them, imitating their figures and modes of speaking and manners, as much as is possible in our language, that the truth is responded to the Hebrew in many things. Where it will be possible that some are not contented with this, and it appears in some parts that the reason stays cut and spoken much like the Biscayan and much like the old, and that it does not run like the thread of speaking, I am making it easier by moving some words and adding others; that which I do not do I have said and I knew, because I understand that the office would be different that would translate better these writings of such weight, and that would explicate and explain them. He that translates is to be faithful and upright, and where it is possible, to count the words to give others as many and no more, in the same manner, quality, and condition and variety of significations that the originals have, without being limited {limitallas?} by the proper sound and appearance; such that those who read the translation would be able to understand all the variety of the senses, and to give occasion that the original would be read, and stay free to choose those that appear better to them. Speaking what is understood {estenderse?}, and explaining copiously the reason that is understood, and with guarding the sentence that is most pleasurable, playing with the words, adding and subtracting to our will, that stays which can be explained, whose office it is; and we use it after the position of each chapter, in the explanation that follows. Good is truth, that translating the text, we did not have to go so punctually as the original; and the quality of the sentence and propriety of our language forced us to add some little word, and without it the darkest of the sense would remain; but these are few, and those that are, come enclosed between two lines in this manner. [] Your Mercy receives in all this my will, that the rest to me does not satisfy me much, nor heal what would satisfy others; it is enough for me to have accomplished what was commanded me, that is what in all these things I hope and desire most.

Note: The version of the text corresponds to the original Hebrew, as the author warns in the prologue and in various parts of the text: the Latin text has been placed for the greater comfort of those who understand this language, and for those that use the Vulgate.

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Notes on the text:
  • "Your Mercy" is a translation of "Vuestra Merced" (Vmd.), the source of the current Spanish pronoun "usted." In this work, it refers to Fray Luis' cousin, for whom this work was composed.
  • Biscayan is a dialect of the Basque language, a language found in the upper parts of Spain.
  • A phrase Fray Luis uses often is "razones cortadas." I have only found this phrase in this work. Literally, it means "cut reasons." Unless I find another, more accurate, way to translate it, that is how it appears in this text.
  • I will keep the brackets found in the original work which Fray Luis mentions in the prologue: thus my own notes (mostly words or phrases I have extreme difficulty translating) are in braces. {}

On Ladders




The concept of ascending a ladder to reach God is common in Christian spirituality. The basic idea is that a Christian new to the spiritual life begins distant from God and close to the world: as he advances, he grows farther from the world and closer to Christ. Thus the steps in a spiritual ladder are specific guides to draw one away from things of the world and towards the things of God.

(As a side note, one could connect this tendency with the Neo-Platonism frequently adopted by early Church Fathers. Neo-Platonism spoke of the world as a series of "emanations" from God (or "the One"): God's self is dispersed through these emanations, with each level of emanation including less of the divine and more of nothingness or "matter." A Platonist strove towards knowing higher emanations, that is, the ones closer to God. Thus a Platonist's view is somewhat similar to the concept of a ladder, although Christianity does not accept the worldview of "emanations.")

There are many of these ladders discussed in Christian spirituality. One of the most common conceptions of the spiritual life, the medieval way of purgation, illumination, and contemplation (union), is a ladder. St. Benedict, in Chapter 7 of his Rule, discusses a 12-step plan for growing in humility, which ends with a monk reaching "the perfect love of God which casts out all fear" (1 Jn 4:18). St. Bernard of Clairvaux, author of the "Memorare," also has a ladder of humility. St. Bonaventure, in his Journey of the Soul Into God, speaks of the spiritual life as a six-winged seraph, with each wing representing a different step on the spiritual ladder.

The Western Church doesn't have a monopoly on spiritual ladders, though. One of the most popular works of the Eastern Church is a 7th-century treatise by St. John Climacus called The Ladder of Divine Ascent, which, as the name shows, describes a spiritual ladder, this one consisting of 30 steps (which is probably the longest I've yet to run across). This work is so popular that its author is sometimes referred to as John of the Ladder.


This brings me to the main point of my post: introducing a much less well-known spiritual ladder, this one from the Eastern Church. It is found in the Philokalia, a collection of spiritual texts from the 4th to 15th centuries compiled by two 18th-century Orthodox saints. While most selections in this collection include an introduction by the compilers, the poem containing this ladder does not. The poem, found in Volume Three, is entitled "The Ladder of Divine Graces" and subtitled "which experience has made known to those inspired by God," and it is by Theophanis the Monk, of whom nothing is known. The poem, after introducing the steps, mostly just extols the virtues of the ladder and the perfection it asks for, with the author admitting his failure to live up to it; however, there is little explanation of the ladder's steps. Here is the ladder:


1. Purest prayer

2. Warmth of heart

3. Holy energy

4. God-given tears

5. Peace from all thoughts

6. Purging of intellect

7. Vision of heavenly mysteries

8. Unheard-of light

9. Heart's illumination

10. Endless perfection

An interesting thing to note about this ladder is that it is not a series of steps to take, per se: instead, it is a series of graces given by God to a devout soul. Though the graces seem somewhat hard to comprehend (what is "unheard-of light"?), Theophanis asserts that "This ten-graced ladder is the best of masters, / Clearly teaching each to know its stages." This seems to be the reason he does no more than list the steps: "Experience alone can teach these things, not talk." The only elaboration on any steps is that prayer (step one) has many forms, and that the final step (perfection) has no limit. Theophanis says that those who have no foothold on this ladder have much to fear in death; he says this fear and dread is a greater cause of repentance than "the lure of blessings promised." The only advice he gives on how to climb this ladder is the common word in spirituality, "detachment":


"My friend, if you want to learn about all this,

Detach yourself from everything,

From what is senseless, from what seems intelligent.

Without detachment nothing can be learnt."

In the end, what can a Christian trying to begin his spiritual life take from Theophanis' ladder? Not much. He can learn that he needs to pray (and that there is no one specific way to do this) and that he needs to learn detachment. These points are common, and they are not at all specific to Theophanis. What Theophanis' ladder seems more useful for is tracking the progress of one who has already make progress in the spiritual life. By noting which graces he has received, a Christian can see how close he is to "endless perfection."

I conclude with this summary observation: Theophanis the Monk's "The Ladder of Divine Graces" gives a series of benchmarks for the Christian who has already advanced in his spiritual life but gives little guidance to those newly embarking upon it.

I hope this post has been helpful. God bless.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!
θεοτοκος, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.

Nota Bene: I used the translation of the Philokalia by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, published by Faber and Faber, for this post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The τελος of This Blog

My goal in this post is to explain why I created this blog, to explain the τελος (end or purpose) of it. To be honest, I am not wholly certain what that is yet. My original impetus was to have a place to post translations I am slowly working on of the works of Fray Luis de León, a 16th-century Augustinian friar, from Spanish into English. That's not enough to keep this blog going, though (especially since there's a good chance I will run out of steam on this project or become too busy to complete it). The name of the blog is "Treasures of the Church" in Greek (Greek is one of the original languages of the Church, and I have just recently starting learning it, hence why the title is in Greek). This is my goal, in a nutshell: to reveal the little-known treasures of the Church. The thing is, I do not consider myself an authority on these treasures: instead, I am just encountering them myself. More truthfully, then, this blog is documenting my journey of exploring the countless gems that can be found throughout the Church's long, long history. In the process of documenting, I am allowing others to join me in this journey. I don't know what I'll find: maybe most of what at first appear to be gems end up being merely fool's gold; hopefully, some will turn out to be true treasures. For instance, I have not read the works I am translating by Luis de León; I am reading them for the first time as I translate them. My goal in that is to make them more accessible to others: only his poems and his work The Names of Christ are in English translation, while the rest remain in medieval Spanish. Though I am by no means an expert (I am working on a minor in Spanish), and my translations will be nowhere close to marketable, my goal is to make at least the general outline of his works available to non-Spanish speakers. As I stated, that may never come to pass, but I will post whatever progress I make.
In the end, then, my purpose in this blog is to document my journey through the boundless annals of Catholic spirituality, and hopefully I will find some gems along the way to share with others.

May the God the Father, Christ His only Son, and the Holy Spirit bless this endeavor, and may St. Joseph pray for me.