Proper II, Tuesday, Year II

  • Proverbs 4.1-27; Matthew 11.7-15; 1 John 4.7-21

Proverbs 4.1-27

(1-4) Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight;
 for I give you good precepts:
    do not forsake my teaching.

The instruction to “honor thy father” is immediately conjured up from Exodus. So too is the analogy that Our Father who art in heaven is likened unto an earthly father who gives good advice and wills our good, which we call Charity/Love. He gives us a precept, which is like a principle that cannot be blindly guided in all circumstances, but is generally good for many circumstances. We are then told not to forsake this teaching, a reversal of Christ’s own recitation of Psalm 22 upon the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This is a peculiar saying upon the cross for Jesus was The Son who did not forsake his Father’s teaching.

(3-4) When I was a son with my father,
    tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me, and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
    keep my commandments, and live;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.

The father is passing down a precept that has been embodied in several generations now and tried and proven in the fires of life, which we properly call experience proper, or “tradition.” It has reason and has shown to bear fruit. This is not to be confused with the modern usage of “experience” in Euro-American circles which simply means “I perceived.” The promise of keeping this commanded precept is life. Just as The Son is The Word of The Father, and The Son perfectly upheld The Father’s will (not turning away from the words of His mouth), so too we are lauded to uphold the commands of the good commands of our earthly fathers and the heavenly commands of Our Father. The reward is life — since Christ Ascended to the right hand of The Father with the human nature, we are now able to enter where he has gone, to be united to The Trinity: Life-Itself. But it is said “you shall be judged according to your deeds” and thus the command to not turn away.

(5-6) Get wisdom; get insight.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.

Wisdom is the virtue that identifies and commands one to the fitting particularity in a situation. For instance if we have the precept “All light meat is healthy.” And we know that “chicken is light meat” then we can conclude “chicken is healthy.” Knowledge points out chicken is light meat. But Wisdom is the virtue which allows one to cook and eat chicken, rather than eating bratwurst. Wisdom is also the disposition that knows the fitting act, so it would not fry the chicken but might bake it since frying it would remove it’s particular qualities that make it healthy. Action always operates off a general premise or principle or precept as the father is giving the son in this passage. But there is always a minor premise or particular that must match it. The Kantians error in thinking there are only maxims, only precepts, only principles one lives by, and such men call themselves “men of principles,” but they are without Wisdom. So too there are those who say, as does Antonio Banderas’ character in Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups that “there are no principles, just circumstances,” and such men too are slaves to their passions, driven by the tides of desire, and can have no Wisdom, for while particulars exist, they have no way of discerning which to do or pick or be in accordance with a good and general precept. 

(7) The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,

The beginning of every act is to first think what it is one wishes to do. Thus the beginning of acquiring the virtue of Wisdom is to hold the precept in thought, “Get Wisdom.” The for-the-sake-of-which (telos or ‘purpose’) of our activities then should be to acquire Wisdom.

(8-9) Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
 She will place on your head a fair garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

Wisdom is identified as a she here. Some say this is The Holy Spirit since she was with God before the foundations of the world, being eternity, which would make her a hypostasis/Person of The Divinity. Others say this is an anthropomorphic manifestation of artisan-like wisdom like the feminine figure “Hagia Sophia” found in Eastern Christianity, i.e. The Orthodox Church and some of the heretical Nestorian and Monophysite churches. John 16.13 often gets translated with the Holy Spirit as “he” which makes this all the more confusing but there it is. Whatever the case, whether a virtue or The Lord, the fair garland is the victory wreath placed upon a runner or Olympians head in ancient days. This reminds one of St. Paul’s claim to have ‘run the race’ and to have ‘kept the faith.’ We aim then at a garland at the end of this life, whether we die today or fifty years from now. And the crown too is the goal, but a crown marks a king, and we shall share in Christ’s Kingship, since ‘every knee shall bow and every tongue confess his name,’ it follows that all is subject to his Kingship, we his subjects, and Dominion at last is fulfilled — being God the Father’s command for humans in Genesis. We who have dominion over the brutes and plants will finally be made perfect and rightly participate in ordering all Creation well as we were commanded, by the grace of Christ’s Kingship and his transformation of our souls and bodies into perfect godliness, virtue, holiness. This we call Sanctification or Divinization, whereby we become holy like Our Father who in heaven is holy. Jesus said this in John 10.34 where he references Psalm 82.6, “I have said, ‘You are gods, and all sons of The Most High.” This is not polytheism nor a Greek pantheon, but ‘gods’ meaning humans reaching supernatural heights, ‘being made little lower than the angels’ we shall ascend higher than them and even ‘judge angels’ those which rebelled against The Lord. This kingship we share in, is part of Christ’s kingship not only fulfilling David’s kingship promised to him but also restoring Kingship rightfully to The Lord when the people rebelled against God saying they wanted a human king in 1 Samuel 8.

(10-13) Hear, my son, and accept my words,
    that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
    I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered;
    and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction, do not let go;
    guard her, for she is your life.

The life of our years being many cannot reference Eternity which is proper to God alone, for God alone is without beginning nor end, line a mathematical line running infinitely left and right. A human being a creatures comes into being, and thus we may run infinitely to the right, but we have a clear point, a beginning. The general resurrection, if followed by a judgment by The Most High to life everlasting will allow one to have many years, everlasting that is, though not infinite which is again proper only to God. When we walk and run without being hampered or stumbling is signified there will be no sin in the Resurrection to Life, no stumbling blocks left, and thus the virtues will cease to be needed to guide us to our proper goal having finished (telos). However, though many fade, Charity/Love will continue, for the end is not a terminus but reaches a point of perpetual praise, worship, and adoration of our God. Thus Love will still be needed as a virtue, and none with Charity can stumble, for Love is the highest of virtues. That virtue will hold us close to God forevermore, as we worship everlastingly.

(14-17) Do not enter the path of the wicked,
    and do not walk in the way of evil men.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
    turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
    they are robbed of sleep unless they have made some one stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
    and drink the wine of violence.

A warning is given to us if we are to walk in the virtue of Wisdom, for every evil deed is a lack of character, being a lack of virtue, a lack of proper ends and disposition toward a proper object in a proper way. Thus it is that evil and good cannot subsist together anymore than substance and nothingness subsist together, for nothing is just that “no thing.” The bread of wickedness and wine of violence is a sort of anti-eucharistic image, reminiscent of Judas who ate at the Last Supper’s bread and wine only to betray Jesus for 30 shekels of silver with the kiss of peace saying, “Hail, Master!” Thus betrayal is the sin of clever men, but being clever is different than being wise. Cleverness procures a means to an end, even if unjust, which is how modern political theory defines “rationality.”  Wisdom on the other hand always seeks the good, locating and guiding one to the particularities of this life that shall procure the good life and happiness. The clever man is the worst kind of man, for one can trust an enemy will always be against them, but the traitor has no concern for appearances, doing violence not only to another’s body, but also to their soul. Thus Judas and Lucifer in their betrayal are the Arch-Sinners, having missed the mark not just a bit, but as far away from the target as the arrow will go, in missing The Lord who is Being-Itself they aimed at shot into the nothingness. The ends and aims of evil is always the abyss.

(18-19) But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
    which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know over what they stumble.

Dawn is always a reference to the coming light of Christ, for in English Christianity a pun has always existed between “Sun” & “Son,” a convenient and fitting pun based on old Platonic metaphors of the sun as the Good, True, and Beautiful. So we found that this transcendent Being-Itself to be The Lord, who was incarnate from the virgin Mary, and was made man. But the wicked who are in darkness is a reference to Hades, Sheoul, Hell, The Land of the Dead — that dark shadowy place where the light is neither known nor desired, where men stumble over themselves from their own sins, and yet do not know they are stumbling, for they loved to delight in it and think it normal.

(20-21) My son, be attentive to my words;
    incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
    keep them within your heart.

We can hear Christ telling us, “though they have ears they hear not.” Here the father begs the son to have a disposition opening not just to hearing but to understanding, which is the distinction Jesus makes in his saying. Though I might hear Mandarin or Russian I do not understand it. So too we might hear some English sentence on quantum chemistry and yet though hearing we do not understand it. For “hearing” is meant in two ways, the first is that a sensation is received, and it becomes a perception, and this perception the intellect can then seek to grasp which we call understanding. Just as the deaf man receives the sense of sound but due to damage either in the ear or in the brain it cannot yield a perception to him, so too some cannot have the perception move to judgment due to moral or intellectual damage. The father is begging the son to hear, assuming his capacity is to understand, so we warns of moral damage that might forbid him to really hear his words and to follow them. The exhortation to keep them under passionate concern and not to let unethical passions sway him is signified by the “heart” of the last line. And the eye metaphor is employed to signify an end or goal one keeps in view for directing action toward.

(22) For they are life to him who finds them,
    and healing to all his flesh.

Again, a promise of Resurrection.

(23) Keep your heart with all vigilance;
    for from it flow the springs of life.

The springs of life mention one faculty of the animating principle we call the soul – the heart being the passionate faculty. If any faculty goes dead they all go dead, for the soul is tripartite being made in the Trinity’s image, thus just as Father, Son, & Holy Ghost are distinct Persons but inseparate as One God, One Being– so too our rational, passionate, and appetitive faculties are distinct but inseparate as one person, one being.

(27) Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
    turn your foot away from evil.

Like The Book of Joshua we are told neither to stray to the left nor the right. This is a reference to virtue as the disposition which is the golden mean between extremes, one being defective the other excessive. E.G. one who wishes to acquire the Virtue of Courage strays neither to the left (Cowardice) nor to the right (Rashness). The defect to the left leads to fleeing at the wrong times which wins no battles nor wars, the excess to the right leads to rushing in headlong at the wrong time which leads to being slaughtered, losing supplies, and again winning no battles nor wars. Virtue is not the “middle” but the mean, which if you recall means or averaging in basic arithmetic sometimes looks closer to the bottom of a set of numbers such as 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 2 = 7 / 7 numbers = an average of 1, though the “middle” would have been 1.5. So virtue is said to be the mean and not the middle, for the mean moves around depending on particulars, which requires the Virtue of Wisdom, whereas the middle is a simply calculation according to precept alone. Thus compromisers are never wise, but live according to the principle that all principles and circumstances can change, and this is their precept or guiding principle, which is not wise. But rather Virtue always does the fitting that at the fitting time with the fitting people with the fitting objects.

The Gospel according to St. Matthew 11.7-15

(7-9) Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

A reed shaken in the wind is a person driven merely by fleeting passions, like the wind they go and come to and fro but are not steady as a reed in the wind is. No one travels afar to see John the Baptist because he’s a fool who’s driven by wordly passions, just as no one comes for healing from a doctor who cant’ heal the same disease the patient has. Nor is St. John the Baptizer a “man of soft raiment,” meaning a rich man or a pretty body or a man of luxury who sits about in a king’s house. The people traveled into the wilderness, through deserts, mountains, plains, brambles, they have ventured into the middle of nowhere to see a prophet. And there is something particularly strange about this prophet…

(10) This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
who shall prepare thy way before thee.’

Jesus references The Prophet Isaiah (40.3) & The Prophet Malachi (3.1). John will prepare the way of The Lord, and thus his other title forever more shall be St. John the Forerunner. Even God prepares a path for himself, just as a king lays out a red carpet, and yet God does not operate with pretty things, for The World, Babylon, lives a life of luxury, but God calls for a broken and contrite heart, a thing hard to obtain when one’s desires are all satisfied.

(11) Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

St. John the Baptist is the greatest of men in virtue of his office, he is the last prophet who is man alone, sent to finally prepare the way of God, who incarnate in the flesh of Jesus will be Prophet of prophets. And yet any in the kingdom of the heavens are greater, for those who receive the Beatific Vision, the intellectual vision of God the Father have a greater place in God’s Economy, for they are at the highest of heights a human can reach.

(12-13)

 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John;

The kingdom of the heavens has been preached for many millenia, many prophets have been sent, and yet Israel and Judah have spit upon, rejected, and killed the prophets. Thus violence has been done unto God’s messengers, and men have thought they could take God’s Creation by force for themselves, thus is the project of Babel and Babylon, that men would make a heaven on earth. But the Kingdom of Heaven is inseparable from the New Heaven & The New Earth, so such wickedness will not ultimately prevail, but in The Resurrection as Psalm 37.10 says, “In a little while the wicked will be no more, though you search them out you will not find them.”

(14) and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli′jah who is to come.

Elijah was assumed into heaven (like St. Mary) when he rolled up a scroll, struck water thereby parting it like The Red Sea, then walking out onto dry land a fiery chariot took him away. He disciple Elisha watched the entire scene unfold. Legend had it he would return one day at the End of the Age. So it is that at The Transfiguration Moses and Elijah are seen standing next to Christ. Moses because God who is eternal, being outside time, is both on the Mount Tabor but also “after” Christ’s Harrowing of Hell where he brought Moses out of Hell. And Elijah having been assumed stands forever by Christ’s side seeing God “face to face” quite literally, for Jesus said, “those who have seen me have seen The Father.” Elijah was a prophet in The First and Second Book of Kings. He was known for his camel hair outfit, cry for the people to Repent, and no problem defying wordly powers who defied God. His name Elijah means “My God is YHWH,” and he went to task at challenging others gods, e.g. his famous trail against the priest of Baal where he calls down holy fire to devour a sacrifice. John the Baptist is said to be the new Elijah here, the one everyone waited for to usher in the end times. So it is that we who live after the Crucifixion live in the final age. St. John the Forerunner then prepares not only Christ, but the end and completion of all Creation. I speculate the two witnesses or martyrs (for witness is Greek is marturos, and this is what it meant to “witness to Christ” in our earliest days, to die pronouncing him) in St. John’s Revelation (ch. XI) are Elijah and Moses who destroy any who hurt them when fire pours out of their mouths. These two are said to have the power to turn water to blood (Moses in Exodus) and to shut the heavens so that it raineth not (Elijah in 1 Kings). John is thus a new Elijah, but there is also another time when Elijah must come.

(15) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

See Proverbs 4.20-21 above.

St. John’s First Epitles 4.7-21

(7-10) Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.

by verse 7-8 alone some are apt as I was at 19 to say that anyone who “loves,” an ambiguous love, knows God. But St. John the Evangelist goes on further in verse 10 to elucidate that Love/charity is not in fact that vague love Euro-Americans all claim to have, but is instead Christ-himself. Thus The Person of Christ is Love. And thus in accordance to how St. John uses the term love, it is meant differently than we often use it in the U.S. For whereas The Liberal Tradition defines love as a general affection for humanity, a kind of abstraction, The Church defines Love as willing the good of a particular person nearby, a concrete “neighbour.” In order to acquire this virtue then one must know and direct others to The Good, which for St. John is The Trinity. Thus it is a general affection to a person is insufficient to be called “Love,” that if good be relative as it is in our culture, that this cannot be love since love assumes a Good exists and goods which help us achieve that end.

(11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Our virtue is made by analogy to the character of God. And since he is the standard, we in His image, we who are warped images ought be restored to likeness to the original. God the Father’s love is that He sent Jesus Christ who is the archetype, the prime image according to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. And this love is a kind of character, that we be Christ-like, for in being like Christ who is God made flesh, we shall be like God the Father, we shall be gods (see above Proverbs 4.8-9).

No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By “God” here St. John addresses The Person God the Father, which is in keeping with how he uses the term in his gospel and other epistles. No one has seen God face to face as it was with the patriarchs of old, and the Virtue of Hope is that desire which kept us yearning for that consummation to see God the Father. In loving one another habitually we come to have love perfected in us, that is we become loving persons, and what’s our character is shaped that way, that is to say we participate in that virtue, this is a higher level of participation in God’s Being — for every virtue is participation in God’s Being. Those who receive and cultivate the supernatural virtue of Love thus are perfected and we shall come to see God the Father, for we shall see Jesus Christ (see Matthew 11.14 above)

(13-14) By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.

This Trinitarian formula names the Three Persons of the One God we worship. The giving of The Spirit is in Baptism, and thus this epistle is addressed to the baptized. And that group testifies to The Father, as our liturgy is a directed prayer to The Father and our lives if bearing fruit, having been fed grace using the elements of bread and wine, become a testimony to God’s ability to heal his people and bring them to life everlasting, as evidenced by The Saints. Thus we assuredly call Christ “Saviour,” for his Saints are evidence of his power and redemption.

(15-16) Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us.

The primary confession of The Faith is done in the Rite of Baptism, and God is said to abide in the confessor because they receive The Spirit through water, which was gifted to us when Jesus in being baptized by John put The Divinity into the waters, thereby completing John’s baptism for the remission of sins. This synthesis was to “fulfill all righteousness/justice,” for the virtue of Justice is to do what one ought to do, and what the cosmos ought to do is to be ordered to God. Thus in Baptism we are brought along as co-creators with God to restore his project Eden and to bring it to completion. And that The Father adopts us in Baptism and names of children of God through The Holy Spirit, such is the evidence of his love for us, for He sends his son to save his children and to ensure The Baptismal Covenant is completed in Christ, and we share in his completion if we bear good fruit by deeds through grace. Bringing people to God is thus Love, and any “good” considered detached has from The Good-Itself has the taste of corruption. It can only bear the title of “natural good” for in fulfilling our natures we do good, but the ultimate good is for the good nature to reach the supernatural heights of The Good.

(16) God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

This Scripture is vastly bastardized and taken out of context to justify many people’s wicked deeds. God indeed is Love, but love is willing the good of another; and The Good is The Divinity itself (see Plato’s Euthyphro). Thus God wills all would be joined to him. Anything that tears us away from God’s love, and that is especially our own free wills used to enslave ourselves to our passions, is thus not loving, and God hates that which works against His will. Love is not an easy virtue to acquire, it is the height of heights, the ultimate form of good, and it is willing to die on the cross for God the Father to bring his beloved creatures back to Him. 

(17) In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world.

God’s Love and Mercy is not in contradiction to His Justice, and there will be separation of goats from sheep in accordance with our deeds. As Christ himself says in John 15, we are branches, he is the vine, we may be purged to bear fruit or cut off entirely. He who wills not The Good for themselves nor their neighbour nor God cannot claim confidence or surety of salvation is vainly repeating “God is love.” For love requires a beloved who responds to that love, with love. I myself pray I might be cut and purged, for I am a man without much charity.

(18) There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.

“Fear” is used in many ways and therefore has many meanings. While we are commanded to “Fear not” by The Lord and angels alike as our Patriarchs were in the Days of Old, so too are we commanded, “Fear The Lord thy God.” Here “fear” is used to denote a kind of shrinking away or passion of terror that inspires flight for fear of lashing.  The “fear” of The Lord subsists unto everlasting because that terror inspires humility in the creature, to humble themselves before God and confess their own status, and it that leads to adoration, praise, and worship of The Triune Lord. That “fear” even The Saints who are perfect have, for fleeing the lash implies discipline is still needed. But the perfect do not need discipline but are masters of themselves and perfectly subject to The Master.

(19) We love, because he first loved us.

Just as we did not choose Christ but he chose us, so too God first loved us. In the order of salvation man’s will/choice/agency is always second, God’s first.

(20-21) If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.

So it is as I stated with verse 8 that crying “God is love” but hating thy neighbour is a lie. We are exhorted to see Christ in one another, Christ who is God, thus we are to treat another as if they are God. In other words, if we claim to love God and not neighbour, we are a liar. If we claim to love neighbour and not God we are a liar. These goes for Christians and pagans alike in terms of what’s going on reality. How we go about teaching and living and exhorting is a different matter.

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