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Proper III, Wednesday, Year II

  • Proverbs 6.1-19, 1 John 5.1-12, Matthew 11.16-24

The Book of Proverbs 6.1-19

(1-3) My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor,
    have given your pledge for a stranger;
if you are snared in the utterance of your lips,[a]
    caught in the words of your mouth;
then do this, my son, and save yourself,
    for you have come into your neighbor’s power:
    go, hasten, and importune your neighbor.

Have you ever made a promise to someone to do something only to find you double-booked? or have you given your word to help someone only to find out your have moral qualms with the matter at hand? Do you keep your promise? Do you break it? To solve this dilemma ask yourself, “If keeping promises always good?” To answer this consider a deal with the Devil. If you assume keeping promises is always good, but the Devil presumably has some tricked you into keeping to a promise of doing an evil deed, then keeping the promise is both good and evil. A contradiction. Thus, keeping your promise always assumes it is for the good. If you have been “snared” by such an utterance of your lips, go to that person and “importune” them, that is, to ask/entreat/request you be removed from such a snare. You are after all not bound to do evil, but talking the matter out with the person is also important since we wish to dishonour no one, and to lose no friends over the matter.

(6-8) Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
 Without having any chief,
    officer or ruler,
she prepares her food in summer,
    and gathers her sustenance in harvest.

Have foresight. Being lazy always always nips us in the ass eventually. See how even the ant is autocratic – that is, it is “self-ruling,” not in the sense that it is subject to nothing higher, for it is subject to The Queen, but “self-ruling” in that knowing it’s particular place and nature it uses its body for the common good without having to be told twice. In this sense, be like the ant.

(9-12) How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
    When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a vagabond,
    and want like an armed man.

Sleep is good, it gives rest for the body and energy for a new day. Too little is destructive, which we all know. But too much also is problematic. Sleep is like an appetite, too much and we get slothful, slow to act. We wish to sleep in and miss our morning prayers, to not begin the day with spiritual readings, exercise, ordering our homes, that the rest of the day may be fruitful. And with a useless start comes a useless day. Such are the people who get in late to work and confessedly don’t get “started working” till several hours in because they’re still waking up. It is not just material poverty they run into, which is no evil in itself, but it is the spiritual poverty — a will slow to act, a mind slow to think, passions too asleep to care for their neighbour. And this spiritual poverty leads naturally to a carnal poverty — for the slow willed one’s body is slow to act as well. They injure not only their own souls in being slow to do the good, Sloth, but also injure others for they see not how the common good rests on their shoulders. In this way they put their work off upon others, which is not to take up their share in The Curse, that Man will labor and earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow. Help us all to bear our own loads, and to help others bear theirs, O Lord.

(12-15) A worthless person, a wicked man,
    goes about with crooked speech,
winks with his eyes, scrapes with his feet,
    points with his finger,
with perverted heart devises evil,
    continually sowing discord;
therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly;
    in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

“Crooked speech” is that which appears to go one way but then veers off to another. Passive aggressive speech, sardonic speech (sarcasm used not to bring laughter and unity amongst friends but to malice and destruction), etc. Surely you know the type, and surely we’ve all been the type. The aim of such speech is to “sow discord,” that is disunity of groups and disunity of souls. The “calamity” here may signify The Final Judgment in which our Lord Jesus Christ tells us we shall have to give an account of every careless word. Lord, have mercy upon us.

(16-19) There are six things which the Lord hates,
    seven which are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
    and a man who sows discord among brothers.

This is one famous passage from which Christians have used in conjunction with pagan philosophy to create categories of Seven Deadly Sins, especially Evagrius in the 4th century.

  • Haughty eyes signifies Pride
    • e.g. The Devil eyed God’s Throne for himself as if he should be the most high
  • Lying tongue signifies Lust
    • The serpent lied to Eve about the fruit not leading to death because of his desire to see her fall and to thwart God’s plans.
  • Hands that shed innocent blood refers to Envy.
    • Cain was sad that Abel’s sacrifice was more accepted by God than his own, and this led him to kill Abel.
  • A heart that devises wicked plans signifies Wrath
    • Absalom, the son of Solomon (the author of Proverbs), planned a well thought out takeover by killing his own brothers and father.
  • Feet that make haste to run to evil refers to Sloth.
    • We always think Sloth is going too slow, but it also includes going too fast. This vice is about disorderly timing around ephemeral and eternal goods. Too slow is to be lazy, too fast is to be wasteful like The Prodigal Son parable.
  • A false witness who breathes out lies refers to Avarice
    • Consider Judas betraying Christ for 30 shekels of silver. He was a false witness unto Christ being a criminal when he showed up with the centurion guard to arrest Christ, his false witness being his fake kiss of peace. His Avarice thus bred his betrayal.
  • A man who sows discord among brothers signifies Gluttony
    • Sowing is the art of planting seed for food in due season. The Glutton or sower of discord will eat too soon, too late, too much, too luxuriously, and so cares not for the cultivation and harvest of their brothers’ souls, but only the filling of their own pleasure, and thus leave their brothers’ hungry for food and friendship.

Matthew 11.16-24

(16-17) “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates,

‘We piped to you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

Imagine for a moment that Wisdom, who is God, sent a prophet or messenger, say a poor man played a flute every day outside the doors. A beautiful song would ring out and he might invite the people going in an out of the air conditioned dark rooms to come out and dance and sing, to delight in the sun, the waters, the land, to till and find their place amongst the cosmos. Outside it might be 92 degrees, but inside the room was cooled to 68 that everyone might stay in their suits. The times and seasons would roll by unbeknownst to those inside, to those outside the cosmos was turning, things died and came into being in accordance with their natures. On and on the flute player vagabond might play. Would any ever stop, even one morning in 70 years of morning to stop and dance? Or would they go inside and continue devising ways to put their labor unto others with the invention of interest, usury, that ancient of evils, by which man no longer earns his daily bread by the sweat of his own brow, but now makes others sweat for his bread by making money off money. Labor avoided altogether, so too the cosmos goes unenjoyed for those who avoid labour. So it is that suffering and joy are not mutually exclusive.

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

John never touched alcohol and he fasted constantly, for he ate honey and locusts alone while out in the wilderness clothed in camel hair. And to this fasting people said he had a demon, i.e. was a viceful man, having eaten a defective amount and drunk nothing. Jesus, The Son of Man, came eating and drinking alcohol such as in the wedding at Cana, and the same folks said he is a Glutton and a Drunkard. Here they accuse him of being excessive, viceful. So it is that that the wicked will call virtue a vice, for they cannot see the golden mean.

20 Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chora′zin! woe to you, Beth-sa′ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Caper′na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

The deeds or signs or works of Christ in the cities were his miracle works. As the Psalms say, “to the faithful you work miracles” but to those without faith no miracle is done. Miracles are a sign of the fruit of the virtue of Faith, a foretaste of that heavenly promise of the New Heaven & New Earth in The Resurrection to Life. Miracles are not done to show ‘how cool God is’ and they are not part of a deal one strikes with God, e.g. ‘show me a miracle, then I’ll believe.’ Miracles are done that the non-faithful might see the faithful’s pre-reward and repent and be baptized. A city without miracles is not a city where we yell at the non-faithful though, we instead look at our brothers and sisters and ask where our Faith is such that none have been seen in a long time. But to the impenitent, God himself says He’ll judge them, and it should be more tolerable for Sodom than for them, a reference to the city destroyed in Genesis 19.

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; 26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Analogies always have a “in-respect-to,” and to forget this is to laud vices as virtues or declare virtues vices. Verse 25 could reference children receiving Christ’s teachings for several possible reasons I can think of: (I) children qua innocents (II) children qua simpletons (III) children qua trusting. (I) cannot be the case since children are not innocent but are also part of The Fall, this does not entail they committed any particular act of sin, only that to share in the nature of Man, to be a part of that set, i.e. “a child of Adam & Eve” means one inherits a warped nature, just as a dirt farmer’s son inherits a dirt farm. Neither could (II) be the case for St. Paul says, “When I was a child I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” It cannot be that being a simpleton then is a kind of virtue, though Americans are prone to think so. However there is another kind of simplicity we find in (III), which is the trust or faith children show to others. They are easily taught, shaped, molded, etc. Thus Jesus warns us, “it would be better for you to have a millstone (imagine a stone the weight of a car) thrown around your neck and have you cast into the deep then to mislead one of these little ones.” Children being trusting are perfect for discipleship, thus Jesus tells us “Suffer not the little ones to come unto me.” It is these kinds that are of the kingdom, that is, those who trust Christ. But so too we cannot do away with St. Paul’s words. And thus we ought be trusting of The Lord like a child, yet reason like a man. 

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This passage is used regularly in Compline, the nighttime prayers for The Church. God has commanded that we labor, and earn our daily bread by the sweat of our brow. This is The Curse given us in Genesis for our disobedience, our vices, our deliberate free will choice against God as some would like to put it. So much for such ‘freedom,’ for it is our shackle. The Curse however was not put upon us as a torture, for in suffering we are purified, for our vices begin to melt away under the heat of the fires of hard labor. Thus it is that St. Benedict put Prayer & Labour, Ora et Labora, together for his monastery Monte Cassino. And so too the Church Calendar today is still a supernatural order put on top of the natural order of agriculture. Our telos was, is, and will be to order the world correctly via labor, Dominion. And to those who succeed in doing so through good deeds having received the mercy of God Almighty, to those the promise os Rest shall come. That rest is the fulfillment of Dominion’s telos. The New Heaven & New Earth will be paradise, like Eden never was, but like the cosmos was supposed to be – one orchestrated symphony praising God as Creator. And God became Incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and he gives us a yoke to bear, but it is light, for he himself takes up the brunt of the work, and it is his work we enter into. This is all contra Pelagianism, which the American flavour is best shown in our obsession with “rags-to-riches” stories where you pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The Triune Lord does not stand alone transcendent whipping us like oxen to do our penance, but came to be enfleshed and joined us in our labours, especially his work of the cross, to save us all. And thus his yoke is light, for we but need be baptized to receive him, and only then, having received mercy, does Christ tell us to pick up our crosses and follow him. He is still at the head of the pack carrying The Cross, we but follow behind, walking in his way, who is The Way. This prayer is thus a reminder at the end of our days of work that That Day is coming when we can finally rest our weary bones, our sore backs, our scattered minds, our exhausted passions, and take delight in The Heavenly Feast our Lord and King has provided for us.

St. John’s First Epistle 5.1-12

1 Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God

This is often used to incite “belief” as a kind of dispositional state one can just do, e.g. just believe in Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved. But how does one come to believe? Some say there’s a magical incantation you recite, e.g. The Sinner’s Prayer, others that you need an experience, but then what do you say to someone who experienced Buddha or Allah or Vishnu or Thor? Others still say that what is meant by belief is the virtue of faith, the disposition of Faith which is a gift from above, gifted in Baptism. But then why aren’t all baptized persons automatically saints or shot into heaven? This is because Baptism makes you a branch on the vine, to receive grace in the same way a branch receives water and nutrients from the vine, but a vine can be pruned, either to cut back a branch to incite new growth or cut off completely to get rid of a parasitic relation. It would seem then the best explanation is the third, for in being Baptized one participates in The Faith of Christ, and from there our faith comes into being. The “faith” prior that leads one to being baptized, the call from The Father is a kind of trust but not the virtue of Faith proper. See: Can Someone Be Faithful Without Being Baptized?

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

The logic of this commandment is the same that I mentioned in another article: The Logic of Jesus’ Commandments.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

As stated in verse 1 it is The Faith of Christ that overcomes the world, we as branches of this Vine overcome the world through faith, which is fed by his Faith. No Christ, then no virtue of faith. No virtue of faith, then no Christ. Whatever Christ does then, we share in, his victories, rewards, etc., just as all the branches share in the water that the vine collects.

This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree.

Water and blood may signify several instances. Jesus came by the water and blood of Mary’s womb signifying he was truly Man. Jesus came by John’s Baptism (John baptized Jesus) and by John’s blood (John died for condemning the king’s Adultery), meaning a Forerunner was required, one who would uphold The Lord’s commandments as best he could, and this was evidence that Jesus was The Christ, the one who would have a Forerunner according to The Prophet Isaiah. Jesus also came to be crucified, in which water burst out of his side when after he died the centurion pierced his side with a lance, and blood rolled down where he was nailed to the cross. In all three we see water is nourishing and brings life, but blood signifies death. There is not only water in salvation, but also blood. We must all die in Baptism, we must all then face death in confidence at the ends of our lives, and we must all bear our own crosses and give sacrifices in response to Christ’s own to do our penance. The blood and the water cannot be sacrificed anymore than suffering can from purgation anymore than Jesus’ promises of life and freedom can be separated from his promises of suffering and labour. Any who separate these: the Hellfire we’re all a cursed lot sermons or the Jesus is my bff and life is great sermons, must ignore or remove Christ’s own words. But if we are to hold them together, as The Word is one man, so too his words go together into one project, into one whole truth, for he is The Truth, because he is The Divinity itself made incarnate.

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son.10 He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.

Testimonies are claims of ways of life, or philosophies, which have put things to the test, to try them in the forge, to have tried out the method, the way, in life and seen if it does or does not work towards happiness. Testimonies thus are forms of evangelism into a way of life. Atheists, Agnostics, Christians, Secularists, Cyclists, Runners, Gardeners, etc. all have a testimony to give, they all want you to be like them. This is true since as Plato says all men think they have the truth and all men seek what they think is good. The Testimony of God the Father is The Son who came enfleshed, lived the good life perfectly, and even suffered injustice rather than become unjust. This option was the hard way, but the true way, for many men have been mislead into thinking the only option left at suffering injustice is vengeance, but to this we learned a different way. For while vengeance might be taken by a man, it not only destroys his enemy, but destroys his own soul for the anger it arouses. And even after the enemy is vanquished, many avengers can tell you the anger never leaves, their soul is not sated by their vengeance, but it becomes habituated into desiring more. To this God says, “Vengeance is mine says The Lord.” For man, and Christ best exemplified this, we suffer injustice, that we might not turn unjust. And to this way of life, we shall have eternal life as its promised goal, for only the righteous, the just shall enter the gates of heaven. Thanks be to God we receive purgation to make us worthy, to wrap up in robes of virtue to enter our King’s court ready and at our best. But this requires The Son. For it is his suffering that we participate in, and not our own. Thus the martyrs are holy because they suffer for Christ’s sake, not their own, for of our own sake we are closer to the void, being full of vice, our character is lacking, but The Divinity is full, sufficient, and is reality-itself, whereby we find our happiness and true character is being gods (Psalm 82.6), Christ-like.

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