Friday, January 24, 2014

Reducing Ethics to An Overly Simple Rubric

"If one respects liberty and one respects a robust view of moral culpability, it seems very clear: A right of conscience, that is, if asked to do something that would be morally objectionable to a physician or a health care provider, them saying 'No, I won't participate,' should be defended. It should be convincing. However, in our increasingly secularist society, these concepts are under great attack. The movement that is afoot seems to be reducing ethics to an overly simple rubric: If legal, than ethical. If ethical, than a right to be demanded."

~ Dr. Ryan Samson Nash, Director of the Ohio State University Center for Bioethics

From a lecture entitled "Compassion and Conscience: Health, the Good Life, and the Good Death" delivered on December 3, 2013 at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary

Listen to the lecture.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Richard Hooker on Communion Without Baptism

"The grace which we have by the Holy Eucharist doth not begin but continue life.  No man therefore receiveth this sacrament before Baptism, because no dead thing is capable of nourishment.  That which groweth must of necessity first live."

~ Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity V.lxvii.1

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cherry Picking the Baptismal Covenant Promises

I am weary of the tendency in the Episcopal Church to cherry pick the Baptismal Covenant promises.  When that happens, the Baptismal Covenant often gets reduced to one line, typically: "respect the dignity of every human being."  It's as though that one line sums up the entirety of the Baptismal Covenant and nothing else really matters.

Detached from the Apostles' Creed and the foundational promise to continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the Baptismal Covenant can all too easily be used to justify bad theology and even heresy.

As I noted 5 1/2 years ago, we need all of the Baptismal Covenant.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fr. Thomas Hopko: 55 Maxims for Christian Living

Just in time for a New Year, Orthodox priest Fr. Thomas Hopko offers practical spiritual counsel for how to live as Christians.  These maxims are worth reviewing daily as part of one's rule of life.  (Hat tip to David Jonathan Anderson at Orthodox Ruminations.)

1. Be always with Christ.

2. Pray as you can, not as you want.

3. Have a keepable rule of prayer that you do by discipline.

4. Say the Lord’s Prayer several times a day.

5. Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied with other things.

6. Make some prostrations when you pray.

7. Eat good foods in moderation.

8. Keep the Church’s fasting rules.

9. Spend some time in silence every day.

10. Do acts of mercy in secret.

11. Go to liturgical services regularly

12. Go to confession and communion regularly.

13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings. Cut them off at the start.

14. Reveal all your thoughts and feelings regularly to a trusted person.

15. Read the scriptures regularly.

16. Read good books a little at a time.

17. Cultivate communion with the saints.

18. Be an ordinary person.

19. Be polite with everyone.

20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.

21. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.

22. Exercise regularly.

23. Live a day, and a part of a day, at a time.

24. Be totally honest, first of all, with yourself.

25. Be faithful in little things.

26. Do your work, and then forget it.

27. Do the most difficult and painful things first.

28. Face reality.

29. Be grateful in all things.

30. Be cheerful.

31. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.

32. Never bring attention to yourself.

33. Listen when people talk to you.

34. Be awake and be attentive.

35. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.

36. When we speak, speak simply, clearly, firmly and directly.

37. Flee imagination, analysis, figuring things out.

38. Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance.

39. Don’t complain, mumble, murmur or whine.

40. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.

41. Don’t seek or expect praise or pity from anyone.

42. We don’t judge anyone for anything.

43. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.

44. Don’t defend or justify yourself.

45. Be defined and bound by God alone.

46. Accept criticism gratefully but test it critically.

47. Give advice to others only when asked or obligated to do so.

48. Do nothing for anyone that they can and should do for themselves.

49. Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice.

50. Be merciful with yourself and with others.

51. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.

52. Focus exclusively on God and light, not on sin and darkness.

53. Endure the trial of yourself and your own faults and sins peacefully, serenely, because you know that God’s mercy is greater than your wretchedness.

54. When we fall, get up immediately and start over.

55. Get help when you need it, without fear and without shame.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

St. Bernard of Clairvaux: "The Sweet Name of Jesus"

The sweet Name of Jesus produces in us holy thoughts, fills the soul with noble sentiments, strengthens virtue, begets good works, and nourishes pure affections. 

All spiritual food leaves the soul dry, if it contain not that penetrating oil, the Name Jesus. 

When you take your pen, write the Name Jesus. 

If you write books, let the Name of Jesus be contained in them, else they will possess no charm or attraction for me. 

You may speak, or you may reply, but if the Name of Jesus sounds not from your lips, you are without unction and without charm. 

Jesus is honey in our mouth, light in our eyes, a flame in our heart. 

This Name is the cure for all diseases of the soul. 

Are you troubled? Think but of Jesus, speak but the Name of Jesus, the clouds disperse, and peace descends anew from heaven. 

Have you fallen into sin? So that you fear death? Invoke the Name of Jesus, and you will soon feel life returning. 

No obduracy of the soul, no weakness, no coldness of heart can resist this holy Name. 

There is no heart which will not soften and open in tears at this holy Name. 

Are you surrounded by sorrow and danger? Invoke the Name of Jesus, and your fears will vanish.