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Cassian Institute

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And we got as far as Chapter 12 in the last session. To recapitulate a little bit of this content, remember, it's all concerned with the interpretation of Romans 7, where St. Paul says, I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. That's Chapter 7, verse 19. If I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God and my inmost self, but I see in my members, that is, in my body, another law at war with the law of my mind, and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.


So then I have myself served the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. The translation here in the RSV is, Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. The old translation, however, and the Vulgate Latin, the Latin translation, can be interpreted in this way, The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, which seems like an answer to the question that he is asking. So that was a kind of a trap that very many people fell into, interpreting it in that way, because the Greek can be interpreted in either way, but it seems that it's thanks and not the grace, because that would be a very unusual use of the word grace there. Okay, now Cassian is taking it in the sense of thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, which has an effect, it confirms the kind of interpretation he makes of that passage of Romans. Now the question was, in what position is St. Paul when he's saying this?


Is he saying this in his own person, or is he saying it in the person of a sinner, or what? Now remember what the standard exegesis today is, that St. Paul is saying that in the person of the, say the man in the Old Testament who has not yet been justified, the man who is under the law, but who has not yet received the grace of Christ, and who has not been successful in obeying the law, in other words, who is a sinner under the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant, and who is going to be justified through the grace of Christ. That's what the Bible of Jerusalem, for instance, would tell you, the man who is still... So we've got a historical dimension here which Cassian does not take into consideration. The man who is still under the Old Covenant, who therefore hasn't received grace yet, who therefore is still in sin because he's not able to obey the law. So Cassian is saying, or Abba Theonis rather is saying, no, St. Paul is saying this in


his own person, as a Christian and as a saint, that he still considers himself to be fighting a law of sin in his members. So that's going to give Cassian a radically different notion of the kind of sin that can be involved, you see. Certainly not any kind of mortal sins or gross sins. So this argument carries on between Theonis and Germanus. Germanus who said originally, didn't he, that this could only be a sinner, and then he backs down on this a bit, but he still, we'll see later on, he still contends that it's not the saints. So this is the argument that's going on here. Chapter 13, let's start there. In Chapter 12 he talked about this idea of being sold under sin, sold into captivity, and he says


that Adam sold us to the devil, as it were, and of course you can't say that the devil owned us and God didn't own us, and God is still Lord, but he would not redeem us until we ourselves chose to be redeemed, and that opportunity did not come until the Incarnation, until God became man and Jesus, and then our liberty was invited to accept that redemption and to accept grace, in other words. So there are a lot of problems involved in that. We don't want to go into the theological questions too much, because they're especially knotty at this point in the letter to the Romans. The whole question of original sin and everything is tied in there, and nobody's got a completely satisfactory answer to it. There's a mystery there. Because then the original curse of God has made us carnal and condemned us to thorns and thistles. Now, obviously he was referring to Genesis, I think it's Chapter 4, remember, after the sin, the eating of the apple, Adam and Eve both receive a kind of sentence from


the Lord, and the sentence of Adam is, besides being expelled from the garden, that he's going to have to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, and the earth is going to... He says, Cursed be the earth, because of your sin, it's going to bring forth to you thorns and thistles, and that's where you're going to have to sweat of it, to scratch your bread, as it were, out of the earth, instead of having it come to you freely. Our Father has sold us by that unhappy bargain so that we cannot do the good that we would while we are torn away from the recollection of God, so God most high, and forced to think on what belongs to human weakness. While burning with the love of purity, we are often even against our will troubled by natural desires, which we would rather know nothing about, as if he were alluding there to the knowledge of good and evil. We know that in our flesh there dwells no good thing, referring to Romans, certainly. That is, the perpetual and lasting peace of this meditation of which we have spoken. But there is brought about


in our case that miserable and wretched divorce, that when with the mind we want to serve the law of God, since we never want to remove our gaze from the divine brightness, yet surrounded as we are by carnal darkness, we are forced by a kind of law of sin to tear ourselves away from the good which we know, as we fall away from that lofty height of mind to earthly cares and thoughts, to which the law of sin, that is, the sentence of God, which the first delinquent, that is, the sinner Adam, received, has not without reason condemned us. And hence it is that the blessed apostle Paul, though he openly admits that he and all saints are bound by the constraint of this sin, yet boldly asserts that none of them will be condemned for this saying, there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. And then he goes on. That is, the grace of Christ day by day frees all his saints from this law of sin and death under which they are constantly reluctantly obliged


to come whenever they pray to the Lord for the forgiveness of their trespasses. You see then that it was in the person not of sinners but of those who are really saints and perfect, even though, as he says, they still sin. When he says sinner there, he means somebody who is in grievous sin, who is not in a state of grace, a mortal sinner. But the blessed apostle gave utterance to this saying, for I do not do the good that I would and so on. So you get the two interpretations there. The interpretation of Cassian according to which this sin and this law of sin is inability to keep the mind on God all the time. Inability to keep oneself out of distraction. Inability to be continually in prayer. Whereas that is not what Saint Paul means, according at least to today's exegesis, which I accept also in this case. Saint Paul is talking about the man who is in serious sin because he hasn't received grace yet. And he is as if putting himself in the place of the whole human race.


And you see the historical change with the coming of the grace of Christ. Now that is not a simple thing, because obviously everybody wasn't just under sin before the coming of Christ. There were just men, good men too, just as after the time of Christ. That is the way that Saint Paul puts it in his radically stark and simple and dualistic vision of the history of salvation in Romans. The old covenant and the new covenant. The old covenant which told you what you had to do but didn't give you the grace to do it. The new covenant which is the interior covenant, the gift of the Spirit which enables you to do it, as well as telling you what it is that you have to do. And then the interpretation of Cassian which is a typically monastic exegesis, you see, because he is talking about specialists now in a sense. Or is he saying that everybody really is supposed to maintain continual prayer, and to the extent to which they don't pray continually, to the extent to which their mind is not continuing without God, they are in sin. Which means that the only Christian life, the only perfect


Christian life is a monastic life, because that is about the only one in which other cares are removed from you so that you can devote your mind continually to God. So you get a kind of a distorted picture of Christianity there, don't you? As if it could only ultimately be a monastic life, which is typical, as I say, of monastic reading of the Scripture. Now, everything that Cassian says there is not wrong, because you can interpret St. Paul, that passage, in that sense, but you've got to be careful about calling it sin, and you've got to be careful about saying that everybody has to aim at that goal of the monastic life or they are in sin. Because then you get to seeing a monk as being a little bit sinful, because he can't quite keep his perfect continual prayer, his mind focused on God. But people who are not monks are more and more sinful to the degree that they are further and further


from the monastic life. Well, that's a dangerous doctrine in the end. You see how the monastic life becomes an elite, and everybody else is out there. It becomes an Old Testament once again, in which you've got, remember, the Pharisees and the doctors of the law, who do the law, and they know the law, and therefore they're just men in their own eyes. But everybody else is just rabble, they're just sinners, you know. Remember what the man blind from birth is, you're born in sin, you're going to tell us what's right? We're the doctors of the law, we're the people, we're the just men. Well, the monks get in that same position if they get a theology like this, like Cassian is, or at least Abbot Theonis is sponsoring. So, there's a spiritual sense there in which what he says is true. The law of sin and the law of the flesh, the law of death, which is in our members, the body itself pulls us away from this continual prayer, continual recollection. And yet, somehow, that's not where sin is. Sin is not in the inevitable consequences of human nature, because we're


not commanded to be angels, we're supposed to be men. So that's not where sin is. And yet it's got something to do with sin, obviously, that inattention, that not attending to God, which sort of gets us off-center and allows us in a sleepy... Jesus says, watch and pray, for instance, allows us to fall into temptation, fall into sin. Sure, it's connected with sin, but that's not it, that's not quite the point. You see how delicate these things are, and how hard they are to really to conduct. Any remarks on that before we press on? Isn't the Gospel supposed to be for everyone in a type that has the sense to be continuously in love with God? Okay. And to serve God. Yeah, sure. And anyone can do it. But the word continually there, or continuously, doesn't mean 60 seconds a minute and 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours a day. In other words, always be praying, always be thinking of God.


But you see how you can interpret that in a large way, or in a human way, and you can interpret it in the sense in which any moment in which you're not thinking explicitly of God is a sinful moment. But there, can you not use different moments of the day, for different people, like a person has a certain kind of work, and using that work to find his way to experience God? Sure. Now, he can't do that work and can't be thinking about God at the same moment, right? It's a very technical work and it requires all his attention at that moment. So he can't be thinking about God. Now, does that mean that he's a sinner at that moment, that he's in sin because he's not thinking? I'm exaggerating a bit, but you see where it leads. No, because he's supposed to be doing that work. Therefore, he's praying as he does that work, if he does it rooted in his heart, you know, rooted where he shouldn't be, in a centric way, and with a virtual intention of doing it for God, serving God. And the saints had to do that


too, like St. Paul, you know, they had to do a lot of things, I imagine, that took their minds away from God, but thinking about explicitly, conceptually, and so on, or facing towards God immediately. Man is just that way. But you see, if you get an idea of man whereby he's supposed to be an angel, pure spirit, you get into considerable difficulties. And that's sort of the idea that's under this. And it's a Greek idea too, mostly. It's not such a Hebrew idea. Man in the Bible is more of a natural, more human, but it's a Greek idea, and we find it in Origen. After we get through going through this, I'll read you a little bit of Origen, who feels that, he said that the spirits were all created first before there was anything else, and they were continuing to keep their attention on God, and they fell away from that continual attention on God, and to the degree that they relaxed that attention on God and turned away from heaven, turned to something else in their


minds, they fell away and fell into matter, you see, and were given bodies and so on. You see, the whole plot thickens. And so some of them got to be men, and some were made angels, and some became demons, and so on. But you see the idea there that the only perfection is in being pure spirit, is being angelic, practically speaking, as far as we're concerned. But that's not so for me. God would have made us differently if he wanted us to do that. And yet what he says is valid for monks, they should be trying to keep their attention on God all the time. So, a lot of things can be said which are, if understood rightly, they can be very helpful. If understood, if taken too literally, and made into a dogma, they can be murdered. Like this. I think, at least maybe in the past, there was this type of mentality of superiority of monks and nuns. Yes. Even, not just held by themselves, but by the general laymen in the church.


Sure. Even at the present there's a lot of that that remains. There was a lady here a while ago who was sort of desperate about being able to live any kind of a condemnative life in the world, because she says, well, now the way it's structured and preached, you know, the only perfection is in the orders, religious orders. And people outside have a lower degree, a lower kind of sanctity, a lower kind of life of prayer, and so on. But that's not so rare. God doesn't confound us, does he? Yeah, we're always tending to do that. And that's falling back into the old covenant, you see, where you have the insiders and the outsiders. You have a privileged caste. But the Holy Spirit is much freer than that. Okay, Germanus has an objection here. He says, no, we interpret this in another way.


It doesn't imply, he's backing down a little bit, I think, from his original position, but I didn't check it, you see. It doesn't apply to the persons, either of those who are involved in capital offenses, that means grave sinners, murderers, thieves, adulterers, like that, or of an apostle and those who have advanced to his measure, that is, the saints, the real saints with a capital S. But we think that it ought properly to be taken of those who, after receiving the grace of God and the knowledge of the truth, are anxious to keep themselves from carnal sins, but as ancient custom, like a natural law, rules most forcibly in their members, that is the law of sin, as St. Paul was talking about, they're carried away to the ingrained lust of their passions. So in other words, he's talking about people who have been justified, who have been into a state of grace, but fall out of it frequently, because of old habits of sin, they get pulled back down by the flesh. And yet, he's a little vague about that, because are they grievous sinners, or what kind of sin are they falling into? It seems to say some kind of carnal


sin, some kind of sins of impurity, probably. But Theonis, in chapter 15, dashes his suggestion to the ground. He says, your notion doesn't come to much. He says, it can't be out-and-out sinners. And yet, so he destroys that proposition. But you see how we've got three categories here. We have to put this fellow in one or the other of the categories. Either grievous sinners, or people who are somehow in between, that is, who are in a state of grace but fall into sin sometimes, and serious sins, but not those capital offenses. Or people who are really not sinners in the ordinary sense of the word, but people who are saints, but who nevertheless, in some way, offend God. And Cassian says it's by having their minds


pulled away from them. We've got those three possibilities. So nobody suggests the first one. Germanus is suggesting the second one. Theonis insists that it's the third category, St. Paul is speaking of. That is, the really saintly people. And so he continues to argue about that. We needn't go through the whole argument. Chapter 16, he gets to this phrase, the body of death. Who will deliver me from this body of death? For the Greek students, that's ectusomatou tothanatou toutou, the body of his death, literally, the body of his death. And there's another phrase in Romans 6.6, corpus peccati, the body of sin, which is tosoma tes hamartias. So it's a similar use,


it's a parallel use, the body of death, the body of sin. Now, what that usually means, what kind of a genitive do they call that? I think it's an epixegetical genitive they call it, which means that it's like an adjective modifier. It's a strong way of saying this sinful body, this body which is just sin, practically, which is loaded with sin. But this body which is full of death, you see, that seems to be the meaning. We don't have that same usage in English because we don't have a genitive. This then is the body of death from which we cannot escape, this natural body which pulls us down. And what does Saint Peter mean by a mortal body? He means simply this body which is full of death, which is destined for death. This is the body of death which restrains us from the heavenly vision


and drags us back to earth through things, which causes men while singing psalms and kneeling in prayer to have their thoughts filled with human figures or conversations or business or unnecessary actions, and so on. This is the body of death owing to which those who would emulate the sanctity of angels, and there he lets the cat out of the bag because he's asking men to be an angel. And of course that was the ideal of the early monks, and it's a good ideal for monks. But at the same time, unless they sort of moderate it or modulate it or modify it with the realism of their human condition, they're going to hurt themselves, aiming to be angels. So we have to aim high, but if we aim high without that other note, without that other element of realism and humility, we're going to kill ourselves. Because to try to be something which you are not and cannot be is to destroy yourself, whether it's a good thing or whether it's an evil thing. Or as Pascal says,


those who try to be angels become beasts and animals. Those who emulate the sanctity, who long to cling continually to God, are unable to arrive at the perfection of this good because the body of death stands in their way. But they do the evil that they would not. They are dragged down in their minds, even to the things which have nothing to do with their advance in perfection and virtue. So this sin that he's talking about has nothing to do with the body anymore. These people are free from bodily sin, but it's purely in the mind, and it consists of distraction and dispersion and so on. And he goes on with his argument. Now, he says that these people are dragged down in this way into this kind of sin, but they're continually freed and renewed and forgiven by the grace of the saviour. So he says you've got this up and down movement, you see. And it's true, psychologically it's true. But can we call it a fall into sin and a return to grace? Not exactly. Not in the


terms in which St. Paul is talking about. Because St. Paul is talking about one historical movement from a state of sin to a state of grace, and that's it. He's not talking about a fluctuation. That's Cassianism, an everyday fluctuation in the mind. Now, it's true, I think, that saintly people are going to have that sort of thing. They're not going to fall into mortal sins, but they're going to be yielded little infidelities, and then with contrition they're going to return to the Lord, and so they'll experience that fluctuation that Cassian is talking about. And it will be a sin and a forgiveness. But that's not what St. Paul is talking about. Okay, now, chapter 17 he talks about the awareness of the saints that they are sinners. So he's arguing for the fact that you can be what is called a saint, which means simply a good Christian, and still be a sinner, that the two things overlap, and that nobody in this life is completely free from sin except Christ. Remember? There was a chapter there where


he argued that Jesus was the only one who was free from sin in this life. Therefore, with daily sighs, all the saints grieve over this weakness of their nature, and cry out in entreaty, Enter not into judgment with your servant, for in your sight shall no man living be justified. St. Teresa loved that expression. Do not enter into judgment with your servant. See, the saints are aware of that. The saints are aware of sin, even in things that we consider negligible or without any fault at all. There is not a righteous man upon earth that does good and does not sin. And so on, he keeps quoting the scriptures. Quotes Isaiah, Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. And there is this principle that the better you know God, the more you know your own sinfulness. The closer one gets to God, the more... in other words, the more contemplative experience


a person has, the more he realizes his own unworthiness, his own sinfulness, his own inadequacy to that reality of God which he's come to know better. So sin in that sense is a relative thing. How can we say that sin is a relative thing? In two ways. First of all, the consciousness of sin is relative to the consciousness of God. Of course, why? Sin isn't just an abstract thing. Sin is not just something removed from God. Sin is always related to God. Because what is sin in the end? It's our negative reaction to His love, isn't it? So sin is not just something as an absolute that's out there, a good or an evil. But sin is always relative to God. So our awareness of sin is going to be relative to our awareness of God. If we understand God as a personal God who has spoken personally to me and given me things, given me light and given me grace


and invited me to love Him, to be with Him, to be intimate with Him, well then sin begins to have a reality. The people that don't know God don't know anything about sin. They don't believe it. So that's one thing. The consciousness of sin is relative to the knowledge of God. But there's something else there too. Sin itself is relative to the knowledge of God. Because the better I know God, the more my responsibility is. The better I know God, the greater obligation... I don't like to use the words obligation and responsibility. We can find another one later. The greater response I'm called upon to make. Because the knowledge of God is a gift, which means we don't know God without being invited to become like Him. Remember St. John talks about, we'll see Him like He is because we'll be like Him. So knowledge of God and the resemblance to God, which means a response of becoming like Him, of changing, of becoming holy,


go hand in hand, go side by side. You can't separate the two. Do you draw judgment on yourself too? Say you intellectualize and you come to know God through your mind and yet your heart remains the same. That's hard to say because the knowledge of God with a mind, for instance, may not be a true knowledge of God. The knowledge of God that I'm talking about really is the kind that is a gift from Him. Because the real knowledge of God has to be a gift from Him. And that's the kind that involves a responsibility. A gift always involves some kind of responsibility. What does responsibility mean? It comes from the word response, right? Responder. Responsibility means that you've received something and you're called upon to respond to that. No matter what a gift is, you're called upon at the very minimum to say thanks. But the gifts of God are something existential that come into us, right? The gifts of God are really something that touch us in our core.


And so they oblige us to respond by changing in some way. If we say that the gift of God essentially is God, then the gift of God obliges me what? To become like Him. The gift of God obliges me to resemble Him. So you see how we move into this Father-Son thing eventually. Jesus says, Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. So whatever gift we receive from God is moving us in that direction because in it somehow, the core of it is the gift of God Himself. Call it the gift of His love, if you like, but that removes us from Him. But call it the gift of God, I think you're closer to it. And that's what we're supposed to read in whatever gift we receive from God is that gift of Himself. Well, the obligation there is to respond like the Son, becoming like the Father. Becoming like the Father, more like the Father. So sin is relative to that. Now we said that the consciousness of sin is relative to the knowledge of God, but sin itself, you see, is relative to the knowledge of God.


Because the better you know God with that gift of Himself that He gives to you, the gift of the knowledge of Himself, the greater response you're called upon to make. It's as if He were creating you, and you've got to say yes to that creation, you see, and that's the response we're called upon to make. And if we say no instead of yes, we're sinful to that extent. And we're sinful to the extent that we're unlike Him, we're sinful to the extent that we don't respond to His gift. And of course our knowledge of Him is going to be darkened to that extent too. Remember St. John says that those who do deeds of darkness hate the light. So what we do is we put ourselves back into the darkness in some way when we don't respond to the light. And thereafter we begin secretly to hate the light because of that. Because we've become like the darkness instead of like the light, and so we start moving in the other direction, and we don't love the light anymore. So see how subtle it is. Anyway, you get the idea that sin is not just an absolute or just an abstract thing,


but it's always relative to the person of God. Sin is a very personal thing. And this is what differentiates often Christianity and Judaism from other religions, you see, where there's not a personal idea of God. The notion of sin isn't there either, usually. There's a notion of good, a beautiful notion, an idea of love perhaps, but the notion of sin isn't there, so something is missing. And where the notion of sin isn't present, the notion of God as a person isn't going to be there either. So that's a real distinctive element that comes in there, the idea of a personal God who can be offended as a person can be offended. In other words, a God who loves, and a love which can be injured somehow, even though we know it's not injured in itself in some way. Can God be offended? There you have to ask the philosophers, and they start splitting hairs immediately, the theologians. They say, wait, he can't be offended in himself, but he can be offended in his creation, or in his extension, or something like that.


And I don't know how to answer that question. In his image? He can be offended in his image. In some way, God goes out of himself, and that's where he can be offended. In himself, obviously, God is immutable. He can't be hurt, he can't be offended, nothing can be subtracted from him. But as long as we're talking in that way, we're talking just on the level of human reason, not on the level of the knowledge of God. But God goes out of himself, that's the thing. God goes out of himself, and when he goes out of himself, he becomes vulnerable. He exposes himself. He becomes vulnerable, and offendable, and passible because he wants to, out of love. Okay? So, in the Incarnation you see it perfectly, right? Jesus is God, and he's crucified. He's impassible and unchangeable in himself. Poor love becomes passible, and vulnerable, and changeable, and suffers. But he has to become a human. So the God in us is offended.


That's right. Remember that story about the concentration camp, where they were hanging a little kid? Remember? That's in Wiesel's book, Donald Lickoff. They were hanging this twelve-year-old kid, and he wasn't heavy enough so that they would suffocate him. The men, they were heavy enough so their body would bring it to an end fairly quickly. So he hung there in agony for about half an hour. And somebody said, well, where is God? He's there, that's where he is. That's him. Which can be a trick of language, or it can be a very deep mystery. But God suffers when we suffer. God suffers with man. We don't know how close God is to us. We're always putting him out there somewhere, because it gives us more of a... It's in the Gospel. Whatever you do, then whatever you do... That's right. Jesus identifies himself. In one way, he does that because he says, well, he belongs to me.


Now that's one thing, he belongs to me. Another thing is to say that I am in him, suffering in him. But when he says to St. Paul, why do you persecute me? He seems to be nearly saying that, doesn't he? That I am suffering in those that are suffering for me. Also, remember the martyrs? Looking out from the other end, there was this girl who was going to be fed to the lions and she was pregnant. Do you remember that? She was going to have a baby. And she was in pain, and she was screaming, I guess, because of the pains of childbirth. And so the guard said, well, if you can't stand this, how are you going to stand it when you're thrown to the lions? And she said, at that time it won't be me, it'll be another one who's suffering in me. That's something, isn't it? She knew that. She knew that she was suffering for herself now. And at that moment, somebody else would be there suffering in her. We don't know what that means, but she knew that. To be able to respond like that in the situation that she was in indicates that that's the truth.


But we don't know what it means for Christ to suffer, I guess, until we get through it. And so it's not so simple. How do we get off on this? We're talking about sin. Sin, can God be offended, can God be hurt, can God suffer, and so on. So it's not so simple. And too much in the past, our theology has been philosophy instead of theology. Instead of really grappling with what's in the scriptures. And so they answer the question too simply and say, We know God is impassable, he's unchangeable. But nowadays there's a lot more, just as there's a lot more understanding of the humanity of Jesus, there's a lot more understanding of God's going out of himself, of God's really coming to us, and really sharing our life with us. Okay. So he's got a lot more scripture quotes on that matter.


Of the saints knowing themselves to be sinners. I always like, I don't know, Matawes here, M-A-T-O-E-S. He's got a couple of things. Number two. Matawes also said, The nearer a man draws to God, the more he sees himself a sinner. It was when Isaiah the prophet saw God that he declared himself a man of unclean lips. He also said, When I was young, I would say to myself, perhaps one day I shall do something good. But now that I am old, I see that there is nothing good about me. There's a lot of sayings. Like Arsinius, when he was ready to die and he was weeping, they asked him why, and he said, well, I'm afraid. That sort of thing. He was the holiest of monks. Is this connected with that saying somewhere,


that we've just been sinning seven times a day or something? Yeah, I'm sure he quotes that. He quotes it somewhere in his conference. That's an Old Testament saying. Now, the sins of the just man would not be considered as sins by anybody else. If he told them that he had done those things, they'd laugh it off. They'd say, what do you mean, that's no sin, don't worry about it. But the saint knows, you know, that that's an infidelity to God. The saints are much stricter with themselves than other people are. They tend to be lenient with other people, out of compassion. They tend to be very strict with themselves. Otherwise, the rest of us are strict with everybody else. Okay. In chapter 18, he uses the Our Father as another example of this, because he says he was teaching the Our Father to the apostles,


who were supposed to be holy men, supposed to become holy men, at least if they weren't at that moment. And he says, he teaches them to say this, Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Which indicates that also the saints are sinners. And Ecclesiastes, that there is not a righteous man on earth that does good and does not sin. That is, no one ever could or ever will be found on this earth so holy, so diligent, so earnest, as to be able continually to cling to that true and unique good, and not day after day to feel that he is drawn aside from it and fails. But still though he maintains that he cannot be free from wrongdoing, cannot be free from sin, yet nonetheless we must not deny that he is righteous. So that's putting it well. He says a person is a sinner and is righteous at the same time. He's righteous because he's in the grace of God,


but he's a sinner because he knows that he falls away continually. The danger is when we get too much into that sort of intellectual or gnostic line and feel that sin is to be identified with distraction, or that holiness is to be identified simply with having the mind of God. Even during the hour of prayer it's almost impossible to avoid sin. By sin here he obviously means distraction. Who has celebrated even one single service without the distraction of a single word or deed or thought may say that he is without sin. For with whatever care a man tries to keep his heart, he can never, owing to the resistance of the nature of the flesh, keep it according to the desire of his spirit. For however far the human mind may have advanced and progressed towards a finer purity of contemplation, so much the more will it see itself to be unclean,


as it were in the mirror of its purity. That's good. Because while the soul raises itself for loftier vision, and as it looks forth, yearns for greater things than it performs, it is sure always to despise as inferior and worthless the things in which it is mixed up. You see what a good doctrine he's teaching here, really. That the soul has to be continuing, the person has to be continually advancing. And therefore he's always going to be judging himself as sort of inferior, because he's inferior to that which he looks forward to. But he says also he sees himself in the mirror of the purity of his soul. So there's an interesting paradox there. That the mirror becomes purer and purer, and because the mirror is purer and brighter, he can in it more see his sin. I think that's a good way of putting it. You catch some of the paradox of Zen in there. The transparency of the spirit increases,


and in that very transparency it better sees its non-transparency, it better sees the darkness in it. So he just goes on illustrating, hammering away at that point. Saint John said, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. That's from the first letter of Saint John, the first chapter. We have to ask ourselves, in interpreting that, what he means. Does he mean that we have not sinned, or that we are committing sins all the time, or that we have a kind of inherent sin in us which remains? So I'm not sure exactly what he does mean in that place. I think maybe the most likely thing that he means is that we sin frequently in small ways, even though we don't fall into great sins, but every one of us is still susceptible to sin, and that we do offend, at least in small matters, all the time, that we're inherently fallible and sinful,


even though we're justified. Because in other places he talks very harshly about the people who were really in a state of sin, about the light and the darkness, and so on. What about the sins you're not aware of? Okay. The theory that you committed could be serious, but you don't know that. There's a real question there as to whether there can be a sin that you're not aware of. Okay? Can there be a sin that you're not aware of? I don't pretend to have an answer for that. Now, what are the conditions for moral sin according to the Catechism? Gravest matter, sufficient reflection, full consent of the will. Okay? Sufficient reflection means you've got to be aware of it. And that's why we said before that those things that happen during sleep, you're not guilty of, you're not sinful. Otherwise you get into interminable scruples worrying about those things. So, it's better to consider that anything that you're aware of is not a sin


until you become aware of it. Okay? Until you become aware of it. But something can be very imperfect, but you needn't call it very imperfect and then you become conscious of it. Now, if you continue on it, it becomes a sin at that point. If you turn away from it, well, that's an imperfection of the path. That's one way of looking at it. But if someone who thinks he's committed a sin and really isn't, is he still sinful? Can be, yeah. Like Saint Paul says in one place, everything that isn't faith is sin. In other words, you can do something which is all right with bad faith, as they say, and it's a sin for you. Saint Paul uses the example of the person who eats food that's been sacrificed to idols, remember? And he says, if you make your brother do that, if you give him a bad example,


then he goes and does something he knows he shouldn't do or thinks he shouldn't do, then he's sinning, you see? And you've lost your brother. You've led your brother into sin. Because he's got a wrong conscience. He's got an erroneous conscience. And so he thinks he shouldn't do it. He does it anyway. Therefore, he does it against what he believes to be God's will, and he's sinning, even though the thing is harmless. So sin, in that sense, is relative, you see? It's kind of a complex matter. There are things that are objectively sinful, and yet subjectively, in the individual, they may not be sinful because of certain circumstances, okay? Ignorance or weakness or a habit or something like that. And then there are things that are subjectively sinful. They're sinful for you, but they're not objectively sinful. They're not sins, normally speaking, but it's a sin for you because you think it is. Then there are other things which are not sins objectively, and, say, you might think that it's a sin subjectively, but it's not really, even for you.


There can be a thing like that, too. Because you get people who are all wrapped up with worries about falling in and screwing those people. They think they're sinning all the time, in all kinds of little things that they do, and they're not. Those things are sins neither objectively nor really subjectively, but psychologically you can say they're sins. So they're not sins at all, but the person feels it is, so we term it sins. So you see, there are a lot of different... This is what you call moral theology. Not really so much spirituality, but moral theology, the question of sin and of grace and so on, and how it works out in practical life. Where do you find out about this? Well, there are good moral theology books, for instance, by Herring, Bernard Herring. He's sort of the leading moral theologian of our time. In general, I guess, he's pretty sane. The Law of Christ, it's a three volume book, really. It's pretty good. You have to look in the table of contents to find a particular subject matter.


What about in cases in which you're God-fearing? What should you do? You know, like, you don't know whether this is a sin or not. It might be. Yes. You can't... Then you're confounded with the choice of what to do. It depends a little bit on your conditions. First of all, let's take the scrupulous person, okay? The person who is apt always to incline to be over-cautious and to accuse himself. Now, his best bet is to, the first time at least, to go and ask somebody who can be objective, to go and ask a priest, a confessor, to straighten the thing out for him. Because his consciousness is distorted. It's not going to give him a reliable guide. If in doubt... Now, it depends a lot on the consequences. It depends on the kind of thing you're talking about. And you have to weigh the two sides, okay? For instance, if there's a great good to be accomplished by something that I'm thinking of doing,


and there's the possibility of a minor sin connected with it, or a relatively minor sin, okay, but a great good, then it's better to do it. If, however, it's the other way around, and there is some fruit, some good apparently possible from something which is really a substantial sin, a mortal sin, okay? Now, Kendall, you can't commit a mortal sin to achieve a good end. There's this principle in moral theology, pretty generally, that you cannot do evil for a good end, okay? So something which is actually evil, you cannot do for a good end. You can break a rule, okay? You can break a church law or something like that for a good end. But you cannot do an actual, objective, substantial evil for a good end. Now, this gets into the question of abortion and contraception, so many things like that.


It's quite down-to-earth matters today. Can you commit a sin yourself to prevent what you would see as another greater sin being... Can you give me an example? Well, I'd say you're hiding someone in your house, a refugee. You know the authorities are after him. They're going to inform the death detention. They come to your door and you say, no, he isn't here. Okay, now this is a question where the moral theologians have to be a little free. In fact, the professor that taught us this subject was a German, and he'd been to Germany during the war. And so that was no idle question. And what a Christian does is to say, no, he isn't here. And let the moral theologian figure it out afterwards. Now, how do you explain that? How do you explain that teaching that your heart gives you, you know, and which is right, aside from what the books might say?


Well, they say, for one thing, you don't have to give somebody information that he's not entitled to. In other words, if somebody is asking for information for an evil end, it's not a sin not to give him that information. And what do you do when you tell him that? They call that not a lie, but a reservation of conscience or something like that, you see. Because you're in a position there, you're in a trap. And what you give is a kind of conventional response, which is not an answer, but a refusal to give an answer, in a sense. Or a greater grievance. And it can be understood in that way. In other words, they probably know that you may give that response, and they know that when you give it, that it may or may not be true, and so on, you know. So there are cases in which you are not bound by truth or by justice to answer a question, and yet if you don't answer the question, see, if you say, I won't tell you, or I can't say, or I don't know, they're not going to believe it.


So in that case, your only way out is to give what appears to be a lie, you see. So that's not a sin at all in that case. It's not a sin at all. There are other cases which are harder, but that one is fairly straightforward. They call it a, I forget what they call it, not a reservation or something like that. It's certainly justified in some cases. Because a person who is seeking a fact or knowledge or response for an evil end is not really seeking the truth anyway in a larger scheme of things. There's a deeper truth which obliges in this case. Okay. Chapter 20. Yeah, nothing new. Chapter 21 is interesting and important.


He says, We should not refrain from going to communion because we confess ourselves sinners, but should more and more eagerly hasten to it for the healing of our soul and purifying of our spirit, and seek rather a remedy for our wounds with humility in mind and faith, as considering ourselves unworthy to receive so great grace. Cassian shows a lot of his wisdom in wisdom and tradition here. He says, Even if you say that you're a sinner... Now, he's not talking about mortal sin here. He's talking about everyday offenses and shortcomings and venial sins and so on. He's not making the distinction of mortal sin and venial sin, but obviously he's not talking about those capital sins that he was talking about before, murder and adultery and those things. He says, Even if you say that you're a sinner, don't hold back from going to communion frequently for that reason, because communion is given to you for food. It's not the prize for the sinless people. And then he goes on. Because you see how it could be argued from what Thaonis had said before, then we shouldn't go to communion for all sinners, because the body of the Lord shouldn't be touched by the dogs, by the unclean.


He says, Otherwise we can't even worthily receive communion even once a year, as some do, who live in monasteries and so regard the dignity and holiness and value of the heavenly sacraments as to think that none but saints and spotless persons should venture to receive them, and not rather that they would make us saints and pure by taking them. And these therefore fall into greater presumption and arrogance than what they seem to themselves to avoid, because at the time when they do receive them, they consider that they are worthy to receive them. That's beautiful. You get the idea. There are some people, he says, who only receive communion once a year, people in Sanovia, in monasteries, because they feel that you have to be really worthy to receive communion. You've got to be really pure to receive communion. So they figure they can only get that pure by a long preparation, by a lot of penance and so on. You see a fallacy in that. You fall back into the Old Testament again. You fall back into the religion of the law once again,


whereby you become holy by doing things. Well, if you're that holy, communion really has nothing to add to you at that point. The presumption that you can become worthy, you can become holy enough and pure enough to be worthy of communion. Now still the argument is a little bit unfair, because you don't have to say that, and you can still believe that you have to do a lot of preparation for communion, right? You can still believe that, well, I shouldn't receive communion more than once a week, and I must fast for a couple of days before, and do a lot of penance and meditation before I approach the sacrament. You can still do that without saying, I'm going to be worthy for the sacrament after that preparation, right? So the argument doesn't completely close the issue. But it's beautiful, the principles that he brings out there. The difference between the regime of grace, the new covenant, and the old covenant, the regime of law, where you get up to God by climbing a ladder, you see,


and you do this and you're closer, and you do this and you're closer to him, you do this and you're closer to him. But what do we have in the New Testament? Instead of moving up like that, so you get some people up here better than the people down here and so on, the insiders are better than the outsiders, the monks are better than the laity and so on, right down. God comes down in the New Testament, and he simply embraces you like the father of the prodigal son. It's a completely different thing. The son hadn't taken all the steps yet when the father comes to embrace him. He had taken some steps, you know, but he hadn't got all the way there. But it's God who embraces us to this level. And everything that we can do really is not that significant in the end. We've got to do it. But it doesn't make us really any better, you know. The only thing that makes us any better is when God adopts us, when God picks us up and embraces us and makes us like him. It is much better to receive them every Sunday, communion,


evidently that was their custom once a week, for the healing of our infirmities with that humility of heart whereby we believe and confess that we could never touch those Holy Mysteries worthily than to be puffed up by a foolish persuasion of heart and believe that at the year's end we are worthy to receive them. I guess that smacks a little bit of Jansenism too, because when Jansenism crept into the Church, there was this idea that you have to be enormously holy in order to receive Holy Communion, so you better not do it more than once a year or so. I forget where I was just a little while ago. Some priest posted that he didn't have any unworthy Communions in his parish. I guess he only let the people receive it once a year or something like that. So they cut down the reception of Holy Communion to a fair minimum. They insisted. See, that was a kind of falling back into the old law and removing God, taking God away from people.


And then Pope Pius X, at the beginning of this century, put back very firmly the notion of frequent Communion, even daily Communion. Somewhere in John Passion beforehand he talks about that same thing, that actually the person who sends more should be asked to go receive Communion more. Today, however, we get to the point where it goes in the other direction, you see, and people feel, well, even if I'm not a Catholic or a Christian, it's a wonderful thing to share the body of the Lord, and so I'll just receive anyway. We get to a total kind of disregard and carelessness. And it's a difficult question, because you hate to push people away from the Church and so on. Even in the Church, I've heard some priests, you know, usually in newspapers, talking about these things, and say, well, the lack of Communion no longer would turn nobody toward the Confession.


Yeah, it's the arrow of confidence. What? The Communion is no longer now. I guess it's the Confession we're waiting on. They should rejoice, because holiness has come into the Church. The Kingdom of Heaven has arrived. They're wondering. Now, at the end of this chapter, he goes back and says something that he said very often, and that is, all of this that I've said has to be learned not just by listening, but by experience. But he says two things have to go side by side. The experience and then the discussing of these things. Unless it's often considered and hammered out in the conferences of spiritual persons and anxiously sifted by daily experience and trial of it, we'll either become obsolete through carelessness or perish by idle forgetfulness. So you both have to think about it and talk about it, but you've got to do it, and that's the big thing. Experience and then reflection.


The two of them. Life and thought. Or life and discussion. Or life and talking. They're both necessary. If it's just life, then we don't gather the fruits of our experience. If it's just talking, then the fruits don't appear. On the question also of the use of the mind in the monastic life, the use of the intellect in the monastic life, you can go overboard on either end. You can turn into a monastic intellectual, or you can turn into an anti-intellectual who goes like a mole in one direction and is unable really to grow because he's unable to turn any corners. He only knows what he knows. So one should consecrate oneself either to intellectualism or to ignorance, because neither one of them is holy. There's a good kind of ignorance. But you can be enlightened by the holy one. Maybe it happens. You don't see it that often.


Or you say, well, I don't have much capacity for learning. I'll trust God. Inherit, enlighten. Yeah, and then the person proceeds to... Or continue to scripture. Yeah, but he closes his ears, and then he makes it his thing. He won't listen to anybody else. And that's the trouble, you see. Because what the person does is just to lock himself into his own mind and his own ego. It's not that we can be without thinking and without principles. But if we don't listen and we don't think, we simply end up with what we started with, you see. Because we not only shut out other people telling us anything, but in the end we shut out God speaking to us too. Because God speaks to us through other people. And if we only get what we understand through our own mind, gradually, gradually, gradually the ego builds up its walls around us. We get shut into ourselves again. That's the thing. The only way that we can sort of verify what we learn, and what we are too, you know, what we become by our growth,


is by exchange with other people. That's kind of a law. That's a law of salvation. Okay, we talked already about... A few points about this kind of... We talked already about the normal interpretation of Romans 7. I won't go into that any further. I wanted to read you a little bit from the origin of... We have a couple of minutes. Well, it's getting pretty late. Maybe we should quit. That thing's probably finished by now. He's got this notion of the spirits being created before the world, and then they fell because they turned away from God. They got distracted, or got lazy. And then they got put into various pigeon holes, sort of depending on how bad their fall was. This is in Danielou's book on origin,


from page 212 to about 215, something like that. All spirits were originally equal. He created all his creatures equal and similar to one another. All spirits were originally equal, but they were also free. Some were led by their liberty to imitate God, others not to, and so they either advanced or fell back. The rational natures that were made in the beginning did not always exist. They came into being when they were created. They were subject to change and movement. The Creator gave the spirits he created the power to move their wills freely. They were to make the good their own and to keep it by an effort of will. But they were lazy and grew weary of the effort they had to make to keep the good,


hang on to God, maintain a contemplation of it. The good was far away and they neglected it. That was what gave rise to its withdrawal. Forsaking the good amounts to settling down in evil. It follows that rational creatures do so settle down to the extent to which they turn away from the good. You see how that is sort of followed by Gashin, this idea of keeping your attention, keeping your mind focused on God. It's beautiful in a way that it requires attention and also progress. All spirits neglected the good, that is God, to a greater or lesser degree according to the use they made of their freedom. And then they were swept away towards the contrary of the good which is evil. This seems to be the source from which the Creator took the principles and causes of variety and diversity. Remember they were all the same in the beginning. He varied and diversified the world as he created it


in accordance with the diversity existing among spirits. That is among rational creatures, angels and men. All created spirits were affected with the one exception of the soul of Christ which was in existence before the world was like all other spirits. The fall thus gave rise to the various kinds of spiritual natures, the hierarchies of angels, the heavenly bodies, the various races and conditions among men. Before the aeons existed, before the age of time, all spirits were pure. Demons, souls and angels alike all served God and did what he commanded them. The devil was one of them. And he's good, we're not interested in him. He had free will and wanted to set himself up against God but God cast him down. All the other powers fell with him. The biggest sinners became demons, lesser ones angels, the least archangels. Thus the portions allotted depended on the sins of the recipients. Other souls were not sinful enough to be made demons.