This evening we started a new Hypothesis, number 20. The focus is on receiving the advice of the fathers and how important it is not to develop an individualistic approach to the spiritual life. Asceticism can very quickly become something of our own making. Whenever we are guided simply by our own judgment, spiritual practices can very easily lead us into pride. The longer that we are in such a state, the greater the danger of falling into delusion. One who thinks he is above the elders’ or anyone else’s judgment, he who seeks no one else’s counsel, will come to experience the greatest darkness. We are part of the living body of the Church and God has given us that which is most essential for our sanctity. Despite the darkness that we see within the world and sometimes see within the life of the Church, we do not want to lose sight of God‘s Providential care and the guidance of the Spirit. Nor do we want to lose sight of those God has put on our path to help support us and guide us. Such an attitude requires from us an openness to the guidance of the Spirit in our lives. Above all it requires humility. Our path as Christian men and women is distinctly the path of humility, the path of the cross, and so we must never be deluded to the extent that we place our own judgment above others. In the end such an attitude will eventually lead us to place our judgment above God himself. From such a tragic darkness - we may never emerge.
Text of chat during the group:
00:16:39 Anthony: Look at the history of Family Radio for a contemporary example.
00:18:33 John White: O felix culpa! O happy carbuncle!
00:18:52 carolnypaver: 🤣
00:22:20 Josie: you said that the reason he fell was because he did not listen to the fathers however we do not have fathers nowadays therefore we also have no one to listen to
00:29:11 Ambrose Little: We have have a great treasure trove of saintly writings to learn from and be disciples to—much more so than in the time of the early desert fathers—and to complement Scripture, and we also have our pastors, our bishops, who often provide contemporary guidance on things that are new and/or relevant to our time that may not have been so previously. We also can have spiritual friends who can encourage us and build us up—many lay institutes, fraternities, and so forth, as well as less formal spiritual friendships.
00:29:54 Ren: God bless translators!
00:35:11 Ambrose Little: We also have this group! 🙂
00:35:32 Carol Nypaver: 👍🏻
00:35:53 Ren: Yes! And a Father with a very authoritative beard to listen to :-D
00:36:48 Carol Nypaver: “Abba David of the Beard”😇
00:37:47 Anthony: To modify something attributed to Padre Pio: "If you think I would make a mistake, do you think God would?" Go out with a good will, be determined to be pliable to God, try to exert right reason, be cheerful & hopeful; God will take care of you, lead you along, bring you to the right people (for your instruction and for you to help), even if not an "elder." (And beware Jansenism, the scourge of 'traditional' Catholic spiritual formation, especially among French and Americans. I like a priest-monk friend's praise of peasant spirituality; for me, it fits.)
00:37:56 Ambrose Little: He's amazing. I love all his stuff I've seen (Fr. Cantalamessa).
00:41:14 Anthony: yes
00:43:12 Josie: Anthony do you mean also not to overthink things?
00:43:26 Anthony: that's part of it, Josie
00:43:33 Bridget McGinley: As a wound care nurse, I have seen women come in that have sincerely regretted having breast augmentation procedures due to the consequences of complications and you can see and feel the mark of remorse in them for this vanity. This story about the wayward monk resonates with me because I have seen this exact thing that is written. How do we recognize pride of heart when there are so many paths both good and bad? Like fasting and prayer life, how do we avoid excesses? How do we know (i.e. signs) that we are being balanced and humble in our spiritual life if we don't have that spiritual father to discuss the details of our lives to?
00:47:53 Bridget McGinley: Thank you Father.
00:53:09 Anthony: Historically, Franciscans rescued Catholics in danger of falling into Catharism and Waledensianism.
01:01:55 Ambrose Little: It seems like we can lose sight of the Providence of God. We can focus on the lessening of a particular kind of spiritual guidance, or particular traditions and pious practices, or particular ways of celebrating the liturgy. But what is God giving us in place of them? How is God calling us to grow and live in our own day? What faith-filled friends has he put in our lives that we overlook or take for granted, who could help us grow? What might we be missing? Surely God is not leaving us without his gifts and the necessary helps we need to live our lives of faith? Are we insisting that God help us in the way we want rather than the way He wants? I think folks here in this group are taking advantage of one of the great gifts God is giving us today.
01:03:59 Rachel: LOL Yep
01:07:04 Ren: These stories prove so perfectly, via negativa, the teachings of the last hypothesis on obedience as the sure path to the virtues (that also protects us from pride). I frequently find myself formulating elaborate prayer rules, being very satisfied with them, and then failing miserably. So, the only thing I got out of it was an hour of pride. It seems that taking one’s spiritual life into one’s own hands is always a very dangerous way and that, unless under the instruction of a director, one should keep to the simple way of the church’s teachings, and its guidance concerning prayer. Nothing more. Nothing “creative”. The spiritual benefits will never outweigh the danger of pride. It reminds me of Philip Neri, and his disciple who insisted on keeping vigil and ended up harming himself permanently.
01:09:09 Ambrose Little: I personally prefer paleo prayer.
01:09:11 Eric Williams: Exodus 90 🙄
01:13:02 Rachel: Simple......lol ..oook
01:13:09 Anthony: Isn't my river in Syria a while much nicer than the dirty Jordan River?
01:13:26 Ambrose Little: Simple but not easy! 😄
01:13:57 Anthony: Master, if the prophet asked you to do something great, wouldn't you have done it? So Naaman bathed in the simple, dirty Jordan and was a changed man
01:15:03 Ashley Kaschl: I think this individualism we were talking about can also lead to a touch of willful ignorance of certain areas of the faith within groups of people. I’ve encountered a lot of adults who cannot be roused to investigate potentially fruitful areas of the spiritual life because “it isn’t for them” or they “don’t want to go down that road.” There’s a sentiment of “I pray, I love God, and I’m faithful, and that’s good enough for me.” But I think that is a dangerous place to be in the spiritual life, because I don’t think we should ever be “content” with where we are. Individualistic faith seems to sometimes lead to mediocrity, which could also be a subtle symptom of pride; to cling covetously to the spiritual life we’ve “made” for ourselves.
01:17:06 Josie: does anyone know a good online bible study?...
01:17:31 Ambrose Little: Fr. Mike's Bible in a Year is great from everyone I know who’s done/doing it.
01:17:54 Josie: thank you, but i meant i group like this one..?
01:20:15 Ambrose Little: or only pay attention to the bits that agree with what we already think!
01:21:29 Rachel: Thank you
I wanted to share a connection I made to Hypothesis 20. The topic summary for Hypothesis 20 is in the 1783 edition in greek, translated as "That no man should trust in himself for anything, but should listen to the counsel of the fathers in all things, and should confess the secrets of his heart without concealing anything."
But it seems to me that the first few stories are monks cutting themselves off from the goodness of community. And some of it can seem very brutal and harsh, and that is why I am writing.
I was also reading this week St. John Chrysostom Homily 12 on Acts. (Next Sunday the reading from Acts is immediately after the story of Ananias and Sapphira. I wondered about Peter's shadow, and the homily covers both stories in Acts and shows that they are integrally connected.)
I think the ideas in Homily 12 are connected to the stories at the start of Hypothesis 20, and I found this accidentally. We in the modern church do not have too many experiences of people being cast out of community, and maybe we even have frustration that more people are not cast out. But we want it to be medicinal. We want people to be forgiven and reconciled and rejoined into community.
As I read the first parts of Hypothesis 20, my gut reaction is difficulty in seeing the stories as being a good model of community discipline.
But then I happened to read Homily 12, which makes a strong argument that it is not extreme that prideful people are cut off from goodness, and that their wounding of the community is partially healed by casting them out. Homily 12 says that there was a superabundance of grace in the community after Ananias and Sapphira were cut off from the land of the living, and there would have been no benefit to let them live longer than they did. That's harsh! Yet, the superabundance included even Peter's shadow being salvific, which Homily 12 says was a sign greater than what Christ himself performed, a partial fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy of the greater signs they would perform in his name!
And then when I went searching for "pride" in scripture, I found many other Bible passages with similar harsh consequences for being so prideful. (I found these with my search tool, and selected some of them. I included the Mt 25:21 because of the story about the pot of beans, which I think you probably will not get to read tonight, but maybe.)
Num 15:30-31 But anyone who acts defiantly, whether a native or an alien, reviles the LORD, and shall be cut off from among the people. For having despised the word of the LORD and broken his commandment, he must be cut off entirely and bear the punishment.
Prov 16:2 All one’s ways are pure* in one’s own eyes, but the measurer of motives is the LORD.
Dt 18:20 But if a prophet presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.
Prov 16:4 The LORD has made everything for a purpose, even the wicked for the evil day.
Prov 16:5 Every proud heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured that none will go unpunished.
Prov 16:18 Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Mt 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’
1 Tim 3:6 He should not be a recent convert, so that he may not become conceited and thus incur the devil’s punishment.
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