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So, we're about a third of the way through Conference 21, the first conference of Advaita
And the Latin title of this is De Remissione Quinquagesima, which means the relaxation
of 50 days.
And what it refers to is the time after Easter, Easter time, when they didn't do any fasting.
We're going to find out what they mean by not doing any fasting in the New Year.
We got as far as Chapter 10 last time, which is the first part.
The first part was on Abba John and Abba Jonas' vocation there, you know, the question of
the law and grace.
He goes out and leaves his wife in response to what Abba John tells him, in order to embrace
the liberty of grace, rather than just giving his tie as a first-gracer of the Old Testament.
Now, we start on a question, which is the principal question of the conference, and
that is why the monks in Egypt don't fast during the 50 days of Easter time.
Now, you know, the 50 days of Easter time go from Easter itself to Pentecost, right?
In fact, Pentecost means 50, means 50 days.
And that was a period in the Old Testament between, I guess it was between the Passover
and the Feast of, the Harvest Feast, which they call the Feast of Weeks.
You can find it in Deuteronomy.
We'll run into that reference a little further on, so I'll close with that.
The Old Testament history of that feast.
But Pentecost is a very significant feast for Christianity, of course.
Easter time actually, of course, goes until Trinity Sunday, doesn't it?
I don't know.
What does it mean?
It used to go until Trinity Sunday, but it's been shortened.
I think it's, I think it's only the 50 days of Pentecost.
It's been shortened.
Is it the Easter renewal of the Eucharist?
Well, that's part of it, but that's a posterior thing.
That comes in later on.
The idea that you have to go to communion once a year, used to be the idea.
Therefore, you'd have to go to confession.
You'd have to go to confession and communion sometimes just for that, during that time.
But that wasn't the reason why that time was created.
That came before the church was.
The reason is deeper than that.
Okay, why is it that during Easter time, nobody fasts when the Egyptian luncheon?
They don't kneel in prayer either, so they don't have to experience it.
In fact, that's even in the Council of Messiah, the famous diplomatic council, the 20th Canon.
It's a footnote here.
A reference to the not kneeling in prayer.
Now, these two things are parallel.
Okay, Theonis begins his reply in chapter 12.
He says, first of all, we don't have to understand everything.
It's good enough for us to follow the tradition.
Especially such a venerable tradition.
But since you demand on knowing the reasons, I'll give you what I know.
First of all, he wants to talk about fasting in general, before he talks about that liturgical season.
What's fasting all about.
And then he quotes Ecclesiastes.
There's a time for everything.
There's a time to bring forth, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to pull up, and so on.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
But there's a time for everything and for every deed.
None, therefore, of these things does it lay down, the scripture, as always good,
but only when any of them are fittingly done and at the right time.
So that these very things, which at one time, when done at the right moment, turn out well,
if they're ventured on at a wrong or unsuitable time, are found to be useless or harmful.
Accepting only those things which are in their own nature, good or bad,
and which cannot ever be made the opposite.
Like justice, prudence, fortitude, temperance.
Those are the old Greek cardinal virtues.
Justice, fortitude, temperance, and prudence.
And they get taken up by St. Thomas.
You see, already the father's old.
And the rest of the virtues.
Or, on the other hand, those false, the description of which cannot possibly be altered or fall under the other head.
So, you've got three kinds of things.
You've got things that are good in themselves, the virtues,
and especially, he's going to say, faith, hope, and love.
And especially love.
And you've got things which are bad in themselves, which are the vices,
and they're the opposite to the virtues.
The things that are good in themselves are always good.
In fact, you can't be without them.
The things that are bad in themselves are always bad,
and you can't do them at any time.
And then there are things that are in between.
Now, the translator here calls them indifferent things,
but that's not the best word, because they're not indifferent.
They're very important.
But whether they're good or bad depends on when you do them,
and what situation you do them in, okay?
The word in the Latin, in the Gashen, is medium.
Medium, which means mean.
And we're going to find out this is very significant.
It has a double meaning, or something.
Medium, medium.
Which is the same as mean in English.
Mean, what does mean signify, after all?
It means the middle, right?
Between two other things, okay?
We say means, a means to get to an end, right?
So you take something in between to get to your final goal.
So we're going to find out that the word medium, or means, has those two senses.
One, it's in between two things.
Something is in between being good and evil, so we call it medium.
He says medium. He says indifferent, or ambivalent would be a good word.
We don't call them middle things, or mean things, or medium things.
Except if we're talking about a stake in English.
And then the other sense is that if you're trying to get to a goal,
we distinguish the goal from the means, right?
Now, the means are once again in the middle,
because they're between where you are and your goal, right?
These are two different senses for the word,
but we'll find that they converge here.
Between good and evil, between you and your goal, the starting point and the finish.
Okay, we have the word media, you know.
But what does media mean?
The media are the means of communication, right?
The thing in the middle by which intelligence is communicated,
by which words are communicated, by which information is communicated.
And this is very important for Cashin,
because this is, it probably rings a bell in your mind about Cashin,
about Conference One, remember?
Where he says that everything is subordinate to love and the purity of all.
So he's continually getting back to this fact that we've got two levels.
We've got the levels of the mean and we've got the levels of the end.
And he started out talking about the goal of the monastic life,
and he says everything has to be subordinate to the goal.
So don't let the means get in the way of the end.
And he's coming back to this principle right now.
That's sort of the basic structure of his philosophy of monastic life.
And so you find it everywhere, very clearly here.
And it's a good principle, too. It's very important.
We even find that the law itself, you see, is a means. It's not the goal.
But what's the goal? The goal is charity. The goal is love.
The goal is gracing, you see. The goal is Christ.
So this is a very deep theological principle.
It's not only a philosophical principle. It's Christian philosophy.
Okay, now what about fasting? He gets to this in 14.
Is fasting good in itself? Is it bad in itself?
Or is it, as the translator says, indifferent, which means ambivalent,
which means something that can be either good or bad.
And of course he says it can be either good or bad, depending on how and when you do it.
There's not a good in the same sort of way as justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance.
Because all those things, if you're without them, at any time it's bad.
If you're unjust, if you're intemperate, if you're imprudent,
or if you're weak, if you're cowardly, it's always bad.
And similarly with the vices on the other side. Any time you do them, they're wrong.
But if we hold fasting to be included in that list of virtues,
so that abstinence from food is placed among those things which are good in themselves,
then certainly the partaking of food will be bad and wrong.
If fasting is good in itself, then eating is bad in itself, right?
And food is bad in itself.
Where do you get into trouble if you say that?
The same thing holds for marriage or a lot of other things.
For whatever is the opposite of that which is in its own nature good
must certainly be held to be bad in its own nature.
But Holy Scripture doesn't allow us to lay this down.
If we fast as if we would sin by eating,
we'll not only gain no advantage, but we'll actually sin.
Fall into the sin of impiety, as St. Paul says,
abstaining from meats which God has created to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful
and those who know the truth.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it has partaken of it with thanksgiving.
Now, that comes from Romans 4.14, I think.
It's important to know these passages.
Now, who is St. Paul talking about here?
The Spirit expressly says that in later times, that's now,
some will depart from the faith.
He's talking about heretics then.
By giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,
actually demonic doctrines,
through the pretension of liars whose consciences are seared,
consciences somehow are traumatized, wounded, burned,
who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods
which God created to be received with thanksgiving.
And we went into that quotation now.
By those who believe and know the truth.
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, etc.
If it is received with thanksgiving,
for then it is consecrated by the word of God in prayer.
That's very important.
It's very important for a Christian life.
Because if we think that marriage is evil,
or that natural things are evil,
we get into a terrific bind later on.
It is a heretical thing.
And he says it's a demonic thing.
And why is it demonic?
And there's plenty of this kind of demonism about.
There's plenty of this kind of mistake about.
Because it takes the whole creation away from God.
That's what it ends up doing.
Because what you end up doing is saying that the world is bad.
And in some way,
that there's another evil principle which is stronger than God.
And so God gets squeezed into a little corner
of abstract and absolute faith.
And everything else belongs to the devil.
It's a horrible situation.
And very often we get into that sort of thing.
We don't do it explicitly.
We don't say that.
But we can act as if it were true.
So this is where theology gets to be very important.
Christians have been accused of being Manicheans and so on.
And this is horrible.
And especially monks.
Because they behave sometimes towards married people
as if they were living in sin.
Or towards people who don't fast
as if they were unchristian.
As if they were infidels.
You can't do that.
See, that's where the monk's self-knowledge and humility
and also simply his understanding is very important.
Otherwise he makes himself ridiculous.
And turns Christianity upside down.
Turns it into another kind of parasocialism.
So that's something to think about.
We'll come back to it again.
And you'll find yourself coming back to it.
And notice how marriage and foods are related.
Those are two basic human dimensions.
The sexual dimension and the dimension of nutrition.
Which are really in the center of man somehow.
Where his body and his soul and his mind are all related.
Both in the sexual area of marriage and love.
In the area of food, not so much.
Food in the sense that food is a symbol for something deeper.
Food is a symbol for love.
Or it's a symbol for spiritual nutrition.
Jesus says, I am the bread of life.
And what he's talking about is doctrine.
He's talking about the revelation that you bring.
As well as about the Eucharist.
So those things merge into one another.
And both food and marriage are used as symbols
for man's relationship with God.
Food in the bread of life, the Eucharist.
Marriage in the whole of the Old Testament.
Not the whole of it.
The central part.
Hosea and Jeremiah and so on.
It talks about man being the bride of God.
The swan of swan.
Which comes in the New Testament.
So if you get a wrong slant on those things.
Somehow the whole thing gets out of whack.
Which has happened frequently in the past.
Sometimes in explicit heresies.
Usually though, not in heresies.
In other words, it wasn't theologians
who came out and make theses and write books on these things.
It would be the ordinary man and the ordinary monk
who lived as if these things were true.
Who really believed them down in his soul
but never brought them out explicitly.
They wouldn't articulate them.
They wouldn't put them into words.
So there's a middle road between this kind of heresy,
this kind of manichaeism.
St. Augustine was a manichaean for a long time.
Ten years before he became a Christian.
And it's almost as if he had a tug of that still in him later on.
About marriage and things like that.
That's about concupiscence.
Which has affected our Western spirituality ever since.
There's a middle road between this kind of thing.
Rejecting God's good creation.
And the other kind of thing which says anything is okay.
I'm a Christian. I'm free.
And therefore there's no law for me.
MacCashen talks about that later on at the same time.
So it's a delicate thing.
Because in all of these things you say something
and immediately you're in danger of falling into the opposite extreme.
As soon as you say something on one side or the other.
So each statement has to be balanced well.
This freedom which he is talking about here
has to be balanced well with something else.
And St. Paul does very effectively with it all.
When he says, although I'm a Christian.
Although I'm free. Although I know the Lord.
Yet I buffet my body and so on.
So that I may not fall away.
I didn't preach devilism.
And that whole ascetical thing is important.
And the fact that you have died with Christ.
Therefore don't lend your members to sin.
No, you're no preacher.
You've got to have both those sides.
What he says here is beautiful.
Everything created by God is good.
And nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.
In other words, if you bring it back.
But when you take it, you bring it back towards where it came from.
Which is the Father.
So you receive it with thanksgiving.
Remember thanksgiving is Eucharist, right?
Eucharist means thanksgiving.
So everything becomes a kind of a Eucharist.
It's brought back towards the Father.
And that's what the Eucharist is.
For then it is consecrated by the word of God and by prayer.
Consecrated by the word.
It's as if you had three levels.
You've got the level of the thing, the food or whatever.
You've got the level of the word of God.
And finally you've got the level of the spirit.
And prayer is the level of the spirit working in you.
It's the Holy Spirit expressing itself in you.
It's going to have a part in raising this thing up.
It's where the flame raises it up.
The word, the understanding.
And finally the thing itself.
It's a sacramental sense of where I am.
Go ahead.
Those are things then that are...
He says they're neither good nor evil.
Well, and yet St. Paul says that these things are good.
Well we don't like to mean that.
There's no confusion here.
There's no contradiction.
These things are good.
But the use of them is good or bad depending on the circumstances.
Depending on the time and the attitude.
The use of these things can be bad, right?
The use of sex can be bad.
The use of food can be bad.
Not immoderately, but outside the law.
And then he'll say this, you know, that
nothing is to be refused.
Every creature of God is good.
And then you find out how they were eating.
They were hungry.
You see, it's not exactly...
It's not exactly logical.
If a man thinks that a thing is common, to him it is common.
Now what common means there is unblessed.
And therefore unlawful for the Jews.
That's from St. Paul.
And he's talking about that business of can you eat food that's been...
It's not kosher, practically speaking, for the Jews.
But it's been somehow offered to idols or something like that.
And St. Paul says, well, if you think that it belongs to idols and to demons,
then you're sinning.
But if you know better, then you're not sinning.
He says that sort of thing.
So it's the interior intention that makes it unlawful.
Chapter 14.
Then he goes on that fasting is not good in its own nature.
And yet they always behave as if it were.
And he just goes on repeating and amplifying what he's been saying.
The indifferent things are the mean things, the media,
like marriage, agriculture, riches, retirement into the desert,
vigils, reading and meditation on scripture, and fasting itself.
And we're astonished to find all of this sort of in the same packet.
Because my goodness, he's a monk.
And usually you'll find the monks putting down marriage and food and agriculture
and things like that, the normal human things,
and elevating things like the reading of scripture and fasting and solitude.
But Cashin has got a solid mind on these matters.
See, this is where the monk and the theologian might collide, might disagree.
Cashin is both monk and theologian, and so he's got it right.
He doesn't let his monastic vocation pull him off the road and say that he's not.
And that's a beautiful thing.
That's one of the main blessings in reading Cashin,
is that he's got this theological solidity,
he's got this understanding as well as the power,
the understanding as well as the love, as well as the vocation.
Anything that's absolutely commanded brings death if it's not fulfilled.
But whatever things we are urged to rather than commanded,
when done are useful, if not done, then done with punishment.
It goes on and on.
And then he gives some examples about fasting,
and times when fasting would be not good but bad.
And the first case is a case of hospitality.
If you've decided to fast and if your brother comes and he's hungry and you should feed him,
and you don't feed him or you don't eat with him,
because you don't want to break your fast,
he says then your fast is not good as well.
The second case is when the person has decided to fast,
but he's physically too weak for it, so it's going to hurt his health if he fasts.
Then it's better.
And the third case is the case in which it's a feast day,
and the person has made up his mind he's going to fast anyway.
And no, you shouldn't, you shouldn't break your fasting.
It's interesting, there's three reasons.
One of them points to God, one of them points to yourself,
and one of them points to your neighbor.
Often you find this kind of symmetry in cashing.
He'll give you three examples and you find out that those examples pretty well cover the whole area.
As if he'd been thinking about it for a week or so before he ordered.
So there's a lot of richness in cashing that's not visible here.
Just due to his balance, you know.
Also, those things will be found bad if they're done for vainglory.
Those men who, by a foolish show of paleness, gain credit for sanctity,
of whom the word of the gospel tells them that they have received their reward in this life.
Remember Jesus says that about the ones who will pray on the street corners
and the ones who will roll a trumpet when they get in lines and so on.
Remember St. Bernard in the steps of Bride, where he talks about singularity,
and the fellow who looks at himself in the mirror to see if he's getting,
going for proper signs of fasting,
and pinches himself to see if he's skinny enough.
So, that's on, maybe got further from Christ.
And he applies to these people the prophecy of Isaiah,
the words of Isaiah, God and Israel,
where he rejects the fast of the Israelites.
Now these readings, you're going to get them in length until you're full of them,
because time after time we get these readings of what kind of a fast
we should make.
Behold, in the days of your fast, your own will is found,
and you exact of all your debtors.
Behold, you fast for debates and strife, and strife with a fist wickedly.
That's a, that's beautiful.
Is this the kind of fast that I've chosen for a man to afflict his soul for a day,
to wind his head about like a serfman, to spread sackcloth, and all these external things?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress,
and let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden.
Deal your bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the harborless into your house.
And when you shall see one naked, cover him, and despise not your own flesh.
Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health so speedily arise.
And your righteousness shall go before your face,
and the glory of the Lord shall gather you up.
Then shall you call, and the Lord shall hear.
You shall cry, and he shall say, Lord, I am.
It's as if you had different levels in which you could fast.
See, one level is the external fast, and the external, sort of the equipment,
the apparatus and the display of penance.
And what's the interior fast that he's talking about?
First of all, it's the fast from sin.
But what kind of sin is he talking about?
He says, in the days of your fast, your own will is found.
So there's a fast on the level of the ego, not doing your own will.
And the way of doing your own will that he's talking about particularly here
is in subjecting other people to your own will.
You exact of all your debts.
In other words, you demand that all your debts be paid back.
You insist on having your own lives.
See, you're feeding yourself, you're feeding your will and your own satisfaction
on the ego level, even as you're fasting on the external level.
So he says your fast isn't worth anything.
Because the only place that anything is worth anything is in the heart, right?
It's in the interior level.
And whatever is external is only an expression or a sign
or a help towards what is internal, what is in the heart.
So if a person fasts on the external level, the surface level,
and he's meanwhile feasting himself on the internal level
by cramming himself with one thing or another,
or by, say, pleasing himself, satisfying himself, enriching himself,
or increasing himself at the expense of others,
then he's not really fasting at all.
Then the outside sign of fasting is a fake, you see.
But if the outside sign of fasting means that he's trying to arrive at internal purity,
at internal, well, at hunger or whatever you want to call it,
and purity is a better word, then the fasting means something.
Or if it's an expression of an interior, sincere interior motivation.
It's the Pharisee thing, you see.
When the fast becomes an excuse for not loving,
and for not fasting interiorly,
but the real fast, he says, what is it?
The real fast seems like the opposite of a fast because it's a pouring forth.
The real fast, he says, is a giving.
It's a giving.
Boost the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that are of thirst,
let them that are broken go free, and break asunder all their burdens.
It doesn't sound exactly like a fast.
It sounds like a liberation.
It sounds like a different thing.
That's what it is.
It's like the Sabbath.
Now, the real Sabbath is not just not working, not doing something.
The real Sabbath is this kind of thing, too.
Remember, when Jesus heals the people on the Sabbath day,
and accuses them for it, and says, you broke the Sabbath,
you could say, no, I didn't break the Sabbath.
I'm showing you what the Sabbath is.
It's the same thing here for the fast.
See, all of these things, these external things,
these customs, these rites in the Old Testament,
they all point towards the same thing.
The same thing.
What they point towards is what?
It's man really becoming what he's supposed to become,
and doing, functioning the way he's supposed to function,
which is what?
Which is flowing like a fountain, you know,
because that's the way man should be.
Man should be giving and giving to something that follows.
Whether it be Sabbath, or whether it be fast,
or tithes, or first fruits, or all those things.
And they all lead to Christ.
And they all lead to the Spirit of Christ,
which is the Holy Spirit, which is in us,
which is this thing, this fast, which is talking to us.
So it's wonderful how much of the New Testament
there already is in the Old Testament.
It's everywhere.
We run into problems sometimes.
There are other passages in the Old Testament,
but that's the way it is.
Okay, he says,
So fasting is certainly not considered by the world
as a thing that's given of some nature,
because it becomes good and well-pleasing to God,
not by itself, but by other works.
The other works, he says, are the alms-giving, and so on.
And the other work, really, is the internal work,
the conversion of heart.
Again, from the surrounding circumstances,
it may be regarded as not merely vain, but actually hateful.
It's when the Lord says,
When I fast, I will not yield up to others.
Okay, chapter 15, now he talks about something else,
another aspect of the same subject.
He says,
It's wrong to do something which is good in itself
for the sake of something else.
Not only is it wrong not to do what is good in itself,
but it's wrong to do it for the wrong reason,
to make it a means instead of an end.
Just as it's wrong to make an end out of the means,
it's wrong to make a means out of the end.
And he gives the example of those other virtues,
to practice love for the sake of fasting,
rather than fasting for the sake of love.
Well, how could you do that?
Only if you're getting some kind of other yield out of your fasting, right?
If your fasting gives you satisfaction
for reasons of vainglory,
or for some kind of personal self-complacency,
well, then one might do other good things for the sake of that.
He wants us to have our motive in our prayers.
I can work with you on that.
Let's say he's a brother.
When he's doing the fast,
and no one turns fast,
and he discovers he's inferior,
what does he do to make it?
It depends on what he can do in this situation.
If he's all alone, then he can't do things like almsgiving,
or he can't show charity to his brothers,
at least on the surface level.
The biggest thing is his prayer, you see.
In other words,
if a person knows that,
he's already halfway over the disease, right?
Once you recognize that your motive is impure
for something that you're doing,
and it probably won't be 100% impure,
only a part of impure,
but once you recognize where you are
and what your motivation is,
that itself could destroy the impurity of your motivation
to a certain extent, right?
If you recognize,
well, I'm doing this just out of vanity,
I'm doing this just out of pride,
just because I want to look well
either in somebody else's eyes or in my own.
If you realize that,
it begins to correct itself already in your own eyes, right?
Because you say,
well, I'm not afraid of my prayers,
I don't have any faith, you know,
I'm just an actor, you see.
And then one can also correct it
with respect to other people,
by making sure that...
They talk about the hidden work that I'm used to.
If a person conceals it, it doesn't work.
It deliberately tries not to know
because of what's going on.
So there's one answer to God's result,
another answer to what's the real question.
And with regard to God,
it's a matter of prayer.
If somebody's started something,
you should pray and ask the Lord,
shall I continue this thing?
Will you help me to be more sincere about it?
Or shall I give up?
Because of what's going on.
When a person is sincere,
if you're sincere,
then this is the opposite of sincerity, you see.
So it tends to disappear.
For this then, the affliction of the flesh is useful.
I'm starting quite fast.
For this, the remedy of abstinence must be implored.
That is, that by it we may succeed in attaining to love,
wherein there is what is good without shame.
Passion, the philosophy of love.
Continually, with no exception of time.
There's a little echo of Plato you can hear here.
Plato, the absolute ideas that exist were ever the same.
And then the other thing,
on the lower earthly level,
were changed back and forth.
But the way Plato and the Gospel coincide
is marvelous and marvelous.
Plato is called the prophet of the Greeks.
And the set of divine providence
prepared him to express the Christian doctrine.
The other side that isn't in the Scripture.
Seems a lot of truth to me.
And then he talks about all the other trades.
You don't do the work for the sake of the tools,
but use the tools for the sake of the work.
All these things seem obvious,
but then we realize, well,
they cut pretty deeply into life at the same time.
Even though they seem like gratitude.
And if you don't know what you're using something for,
then there's no possibility of you using it rightly.
But if you're content with just having it,
then often there are children.
Children like to have something shiny.
So you can't really love for the sake of something else.
I don't think you can really do that.
You can ask yourself a question.
Is it possible to love for the sake of something else?
Not really, in the ultimate sense.
And therefore what he's saying is
if you think you can do that,
then you're never going to learn how to love.
Because you've got the thing wrong.
You've got it the wrong way.
If your goal is fasting, or vanity, or whatever,
or health, instead of love,
then you're never going to get to love.
It's not a question of really doing it for the sake of something else.
You're trying to do it for the sake of something else,
and therefore you're not going to be able to do it.
Because you've misconstrued it as being a means of certain love.
You've got to look out for somebody like a guide horse
who makes passion a step on the way to contemplation.
You see, you find this in some of the Bibles,
the highly intellectual ones.
They put contemplation above charity.
And so it becomes a means towards something else.
Love, for example.
You've got to be careful.
That's not what the Gospels think.
Love is the ultimate.
Love is the ultimate.
It's only when it says it's good.
But contemplation is too.
That's the thing.
The two are inseparable.
The charity and the contemplation.
The contemplation is merely the charity with its eyes open.
Something like that.
It's charity aware of itself.
It's the self-awareness or consciousness of love, I believe.
That's what it's all about.
Okay, 16.
How can you tell what's really good in itself
from other things that are good only for some extent of reason?
Well, it'll be good all the time.
Whereas other things you can interrupt sometimes
and then lose it.
It's a much bigger tool.
He gives an example, once again the example of food.
He says you can't regard food as being evil
unless intemperance or luxury or some other thoughts are the result.
And then he quotes the Gospel in some apt quotation.
For it's not that which enters into the mouth that defiles a man,
but that which comes out of the mouth that defiles a man.
Remember, Jesus goes on to say that evil thoughts
and blasphemies and adulteries and murders and all those things
come from within, out of the heart.
He points directly to the heart, you see.
So that's the level on which the real good exists.
And the things on the outside are not on that level of the real good.
They're only means.
Okay, Chapter 17, the reason for the question.
It really feels he has to emphasize this continually.
There must be a lot of people who have a lot of good doing in this question.
It's almost inevitable at a certain point in his poetry
that when a person begins to feel he's getting good at something
then he tends to neglect the things for which he cannot grow.
That's the end of it.
He tends to neglect the other things that are better than him
or are good in themselves.
He'll say, but that thing that you can grasp,
it's worth it to me.
It's that possessiveness in the spiritual world.
When we identify ourselves with a certain thing,
we say, well, that's my thing, you know.
That's it.
And then we tend to settle down and we don't go any further.
But he says you have to go further
until you get to that which is good in itself.
He says, don't set your hope upon passion.
You see, that's the point.
That's the psychological point,
is we put our hope on one thing or another.
We identify our salvation or identify ourselves with one thing or another.
And if we identify ourselves with the wrong thing,
we never go beyond that point.
Whatever it is, we just sit down and work.
But so that by it we may succeed in attaining to purity of heart
an apostolic love,
which takes us back to the First Conference,
and that's the goal of a master poet.
Apostolic once again, not in the sense of an apostolate,
but in the sense of the love of the Acts of the Apostles
and of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.
For there is no limit set to justice,
patience, soberness, modesty, love.
Nor, on the other hand, is a license ever granted
for injustice, impatience, wrath, immodesty, envy, and pride.
So, literally.
Chapter 18
Fasting is not always suitable.
He gives examples now from,
this one example from the Gospel,
that the Pharisees were fasting,
and so were the disciples of John the Baptist,
and so are the Old Testament on my side.
The disciples of Jesus were not fasting.
The disciples of John the Baptist were Pharisees complaining.
And they said, well, why do our masters teach us to fast
and your master doesn't teach you to fast?
And here we get right to the
node of the meaning of fasting to it,
in Christianity.
And the reply of Jesus was this.
Can the children of the bridegroom mourn
while the bridegroom is with them?
For the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them,
and then shall they fast.
Now, John's fasting and mourning.
And it's as if there were two kinds of seasons,
two kinds of times you can have in life.
You can have a time of mourning and fasting,
you can have a time of feasting and rejoicing.
It's as if life was divided into those two seasons.
And Jesus is saying,
now is the time of feasting and rejoicing
because the bridegroom is with,
as we call it,
the children of the bridegroom.
That's a Semitic, that's a Jewish expression,
just we're friends of the bridegroom and so on.
And then the time will come,
which will be a time of mourning and a time of fasting
when the bridegroom is taken away.
It's marvelous, you know,
because why does he use the word bridegroom?
Because the feast is a wedding feast.
The feast is a wedding feast,
and the mourning, what's mourning for?
Mourning is for a death, right?
Feast is a wedding feast and mourning is for a death.
We've got these two aspects of the road.
The wedding feast,
which is sort of the consummation of man's life,
because in a way it's the happiest moment of man's life, right?
It's the moment when all of his hope
is gathered into one rope and one bow.
And he expects satisfaction at that time,
even though it may not be that satisfaction.
Well, it's a mountain top in a moment of life,
symbolically at least.
And at the same time,
it's when life is supposed to come forth, right?
Because this love is supposed to generate new life.
And on the other side we've got death.
And that marriage feast, what does it represent really?
It represents the union of God with man,
which is in Jesus Christ, you see?
So he is the marriage feast,
and as long as he's around,
there can't be any fasting, okay?
And this is all on a symbolic level,
because he's here now,
and yet it's a time for fasting.
But that was meant to be a symbolic time, you see,
while he was here.
Now he's the bridegroom.
Where's the bride?
Everybody's the bride.
That is, the children of the sons of the marriage,
they too are the brides,
because the church is the bride.
Man is the bride.
Such a marvelous thing.
And that marriage imagery is central in Scripture.
So fasting would be a time for attuning the senses?
Well, that's another aspect.
But what does he say there?
The days will come when the bridegroom
shall be taken away from you,
and then shall they fast.
So the reason for fasting, then,
has something to do with the fact
that the bridegroom isn't here.
So what are you fasting for?
To maybe purify yourself for the bridegroom?
And how can fasting purify you, too?
Because it makes an effort to remove the pressure.
Well, think about it now.
What are you trying to purify?
You're trying to purify your heart.
You're trying to purify and concentrate your love
and your desire, your expectation.
You mentioned expectation before.
So you can look at it in a negative way,
or you can look at it in a positive way.
If you look at it in a positive way,
it means you've got a certain dynamism of love
and of desire and of expectation in your heart,
the dynamism of your heart,
which can be dispersed among a hundred things,
as it very commonly is in life,
and either just sort of flow along,
carried along with us,
or what Pascal calls diversion,
Or you can concentrate all of that power of loving
and all of that power of expectation,
all of that power of desire and of faith, too,
into one, okay?
Now, that's the purpose of fasting, I think,
if you relook in the text of Ephesians 4.
The purpose of fasting,
and all the other means of asceticism,
is to focus you on the one thing
which is really worthwhile, you see?
So when he's talking about the means in the end here,
the means are geared to drawing you into one
and concentrating you and focusing you on the end,
on the one thing which is worthwhile, you see?
Which is the bridegroom, which is Jesus.
So it's eschatological because it points forward
to the time when the bridegroom will return, okay?
Which is the real marriage feast, okay?
Because the marriage feast so far has only been symbolic.
When Jesus was around on the earth,
it was a symbolic time of the marriage feast.
And many of the things that he does, you know,
he's just sort of giving a sample and a foretaste
on a little figure, a little symbol
of what the real marriage feast is.
But then he goes away.
And so when he goes away, it's a fasting anyway.
Because the real food is him, right?
He's the real food.
And when he goes away,
you're fasting inside because he isn't there.
Okay? At least he isn't there in the form that you can see,
unless you're going to feast on him right away,
when you can really see.
So it's getting the outside into tune with the inside,
and it's also concentrating you towards this one focus on him, you see?
But at the same time, when you're doing that,
something else is happening, you know?
Because the life of the marriage feast is love.
It's really love, isn't it?
What's a marriage good for if it isn't love?
I mean, that's what it means.
That's where the line of the marriage comes from, you see?
It flows between the lover and the loverless.
This already in a hidden way is in you, you see?
This love.
And what you're doing is you're simply purifying that.
So you're moving towards the marriage feast at the same time, you see?
You can say the marriage feast in some way is growing inside of you,
but in a hidden way.
And you're fasting because it's hidden, you see?
Because you can't enjoy it.
You can't have it with your senses.
And so the senses are all drawn into the interior,
where the marriage feast is present in your heart.
And then later on, the senses will be ready,
and the senses themselves will be ready to change.
All the power of love in this world.
The best of this world.
So that's true of fasting.
It's true of some of the other things.
It's true, first of all, of chastity.
You talk about chastity.
We talked about marriage and we talked about food before, right?
Because nowadays, when they talk about the three vows,
they put chastity first.
Because chastity, in some way, points the whole of you towards us, you see?
Not having a wife means that
you're refraining from the other,
you're fasting from the other kind of union,
the other kind of human union.
You're fasting for the bridegroom, you see?
But chastity is a kind of a, what do you call it?
An emotional fast?
No, it involves the whole of you,
the physical level and the emotional level.
So you can talk about fasting as a kind of chastity,
or you can talk about chastity as a kind of fasting.
You see, the food and the marriage thing come in a little bit.
Then we'll talk about marriage feasting.
Marriage feasting.
Marriage and a feast.
That means this kind of union and this kind of feasting at the same time.
So you see how these two things sort of interlace as they go back and forth.
The two motifs, the two themes of food, nutrition, and bread,
and marriage, of fasting and chastity.
Now he says,
this points especially to the season of Eastertide.
Remember, Jesus was with the disciples for 40 days
until the Ascension, and then he disappeared.
So you can guess that somebody's going to say,
well, what?
50 days instead of 40 days.
So that was the time when the bridegroom,
after his resurrection, you see,
the bridegroom already risen,
coming into his power in some way,
was with them.
And why do we relax for 50 days, he says,
rather than 40 days?
And he gives the answer that we fast until Pentecost.
It's a good answer.
Tell the answer before the question.
Because Pentecost was the feast of the seven weeks.
Seven weeks is 49 days.
That's pretty close to 50.
And Pentecost means 50 in Greek.
And at that time, according to Deuteronomy,
Deuteronomy 16, look at the reference,
it tells about that.
They were supposed to harvest,
begin to harvest their grain, you see.
It was after the Passover, was it?
I think so.
Because they had three big feasts,
and this was the second one.
Passover, Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost,
and the Feast of Weeks.
Now it's seven weeks from the time
you first put the sickle to the standing grain.
This would go on for seven weeks.
No, after that time, the Feast of Seven Weeks,
the Feast of Pentecost, which is a harvest feast.
Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks
to the Lord your God
with a tribute of a freewill offering from your hand,
which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.
Some kind of a tithe or something.
Albus Dionysius of Cassian here
makes a good allegory of this.
This was indeed shown to be offered to the Lord
by the preaching of the apostles,
which they are said on Pentecost Day
to have addressed to the people.
So the first fruits seem to have two aspects to it.
The first aspect is the preaching of the apostles,
which is a first fruit because it comes forth
for the first time on Pentecost Day, you see,
by the seed of the Word,
which is produced first on that day.
Because before then, they were afraid to preach, remember?
The second and the real first fruits, however,
are the 5,000 people that were converted on that day, remember?
St. Peter's first preaching,
the Acts of the Apostles, I guess, in Chapter 2.
So, that's a pretty good...
That's a pretty good allegory,
which is true to the Scripture.
Consecrated the first fruits of the Jews
as a Christian people to the Lord,
5,000 men being filled with the gifts of food,
which recalls the multiplication of the loaves, remember?
He probably does that a little bit.
There's no explicit word for it.
So he says we've got a good reason for keeping those
for another 10 days.
And also they don't bow their knees in prayer
because the bending of the knees
is a sign of penitence and warning.
If you think about that,
because the normal Christian posture for prayer
is standing, and often with the arms up there as well.
But bending the knees gives you what?
What does it express?
Well, downcastness is frustration, too, right?
You fall flat on the floor.
You put yourself lower.
There's also brokenness in a sense, right?
The idea of bending the knees
expresses somehow the idea of being broken.
Just as being bent over in a deep bow
is brokenness in a sense.
The reluctance to be...
So that, too.
So brokenness and contrition and penitence
are the same thing.
There's also possibly begging.
The position of begging.
So that's the same reason why we didn't do that.
Then Germanus has got another question.
He says, well, how can we avoid falling into sin
if we start feasting all of a sudden
and we've been fasting all this time?
And won't the body get out of control?
And chapter 21, Theonis tells him,
well, your conscience has to be your guide.
Really, you've got to decide for yourself
by means of discretion.
Remember the central rule of discretion
in the Second Compound.
You've got to decide what's going to do your harm
and how far you should go
in relaxing your thirst
within limits of your sleep.
He gives this idea of the balance, and he says,
on one side of the balance
you put your purity of heart,
or your desire for purity of heart,
which would draw you to do more fasting.
On the other side of the balance
you put your physical strength, OK?
Now, if you have too much concern
for your purity of heart, proportionately,
you're going to hurt your physical strength.
If you have too much concern for your body,
you're going to sacrifice purity of heart.
You're going to fall into accident,
possibly, on this thing.
So he says, with your conscience
you have to balance those two.
Remember when Father Devegate,
when his tapes talked about
this principle of passion of the middle road,
the middle road between the two extremes?
Which is especially in the Second Conference
on Discretion.
They talk about the royal way
between the two extremes.
And here it comes out strongly, too.
You see how consistent passion is
in these various conferences.
We've got Conference One
with its principle of the absolute.
We're going to find it more, too.
Being way above the means, OK?
We've got two terms.
We've got A and B.
Conference One.
A. Love.
Purity of heart.
Way up here.
The means, B.
Way down here.
The distinction between
the importance of the goal
and the importance of the means.
Now, the second line of passion
is sort of the horizontal one.
That's the vertical one.
This is the horizontal one.
Where you've got A and B.
They have to be balanced up
against one another
in order to be fair to each.
It's not the question of means and end.
It's the question between various means
or whatever you want to say.
And the royal road,
which is a moderation between the two.
Now, we saw Conference One
was a vertical conference.
Conference Two
was a horizontal conference.
And this one is both vertical and horizontal.
You've got both ways.
Why is it you often get the advice
of saints and so forth
talking about this middle way?
Why is it a practice
that they always do seem to be
so set aside?
Because the Holy Spirit
drives them to do it.
See, when the Spirit really takes over,
they're laying down laws often
for other people to work with.
When the Spirit is not
driven that far yet.
Because the important thing is
that what we do be in response to grace
and not just on our own.
Well, they have such a strong fire
of grace burning inside of them
that they can't do anything else.
So they lay down other laws
for other people,
just like St. Benedict did.
He might have done a very moderate
kind of asceticism.
But he himself probably did a lot more
than what he was trying to do
with St. Benedict.
What they teach for their disciples
and what they do themselves
are really two different things.
And that's the same reason
why there are founders and teachers
that do begin orders and so on.
Because they've got that special word.
And yet, they have to have
the discretion not to throw away
the same thing you don't know
that he also did as well.
Sometimes there is trouble
when they go to St. Francis
because he probably,
that a lot of his followers
just didn't follow him.
He came out of a world
where there was a lot of tension.
Okay, here's an example.
Not too clear an example.
He talks about first fruits
and so explicitly about discretion.
He talks about a deceitful balance.
A deceitful balance can be
in several ways.
If you tell other people one thing
and you do something else,
not in the sense of doing more
but in the sense of doing less.
He says if you preach something
to other people
and then you have another standard
for yourself,
he says that's having a double balance.
He gets a little bit
off the subject here.
He gets into the private
and the external world.
Or if you seem very austere
on the outside
and alone,
one is very indulgent.
And I think we're all
inclined to do that too.
We're all inclined to do that.
It's not as if we're unique.
We need sin
when we find ourselves in it.
We've got one principle.
In our words,
we state the principle
and we believe it too.
But when it comes to action,
very often we fall short.
And so very often
what we say to others
and what we do ourselves
are just two different things.
Two different things.
Which is bad
but at the same time
we don't want to destroy this
St. Paul in Romans chapter 7
There's a law in my mind
which I embrace
and I want the law of the world.
But there's another law
in my conscience
which I want the law of the world.
There's a dispute as to
what the reason for this
reason for this
reason for this
But it's still standing right
in the course of the world.
Chapter 23
Well, having said this,
now he's going to give you
a concrete indication
of how much you're going to fast
and you're going to relax your fasting
and just get together.
Isn't that what he said?
He said,
Well, don't change the quantity.
Don't change the quality.
In other words,
eat the same thing.
Don't eat any more of it.
Eat a little earlier.
He said,
During Lent,
you are taking your dinner
at the ninth hour
at three o'clock in the afternoon
so you can have it at the sixth one
but you're going to eat
exactly the same thing.
I don't know if anybody
ever observed that really
because every
concretely every place
that you hear about
they always celebrate
the feast in some special way
especially the major feast
the whole of Paschal time.
You can understand
you can't just
let go for 50 days
and do whatever you need to.
However, this does seem
quite rigorous.
Not another piece of parsley
is allowed
even in this day and age.
Then I get into
another question here
and it starts
another part of Lent
chapter 24
with different ways
to keep it going.
This gets kind of mathematical
but there's an interesting
and important principle
underneath it.
Since we're about
to get into Lent
we can go a little
more historically.
Anybody have to do
anything right away?
We can go on
in other ways.
Because we're getting
into Lent
and this is a good
So it might be well
if you haven't read
this attentively yet
to do that
in the near future
as it will give you
a little background.
Germaine says
why do they keep Lent
for six weeks
whereas here
whereas in some places
they keep it for seven weeks
and you never get
40 days
and they call it
which means 40 days
so how do you know?
It's a mathematical thing.
Matthionis says
well once again
simple people
wouldn't bother to ask
this question
they just do it
because this verse
is so stubborn.
And he's got a good
principle here.
He quotes Exodus
you shall offer to the Lord
thy God
thy tithes
and first fruits
so he gets back to the
question of tithes again.
And notice how
there's a literary
literary shape
in his conferences
so now he's going back
to the first part of him
you know
tithes and first fruits
they put together
a very artful word
and a tithe
is what?
It's a tenth, right?
So he's going to prove
how Lent
turns out to be
a tenth of the year
You don't have to go
into precise mathematics
because there are
many different ways
of calculating this.
The quadragesimo
which is the Latin name
for Lent
which is the name
we use for it
means 40 days
and that has a biblical
significance to it
40 days I do
whereas 36 days
they ask you
for any special thing.
Now they say that
it was 36 days
and then in the time
of Gregory the Great
you'll find this
in the footnote here
they added Ash Wednesday
and Thursday
you see
to make up 40 days
to make it really
really 40 days
that is
and make it more biblical.
So maybe that
accounts for 40 days.
But there was always
it seems
a period of fast
at least from early times
before Easter
preparation for Easter
which was a great
feast of the church.
Part of it had to do
with the preparation
of the catechumen
so that people
were to be baptized
on Easter
and part of it
was for the rest of the day.
And then in the
Western church
they added on
three or four more weeks
of preparation
for Lent
so things really
started to
branch out
so you had
which was just before Lent
and you had
and septuagesimo
which were very approximate
because they weren't
that would mean
50 days
60 days
70 days
but they weren't
Notice how we've
gone over from
the question of Easter time
to the question of Lent
these are the two big seasons
and one is a season
of feasting
and the other is
a season of penance
so the two sides
of Lent.
Now he says
what about the first fruits
we talked about the tithes
so chapter 26
gives you the allegory
the spiritual meaning
of first fruits
and it's kind of beautiful
and what he says is
every day
you should give your
first fruits to the Lord
in a spiritual way
that you give Him
your first thoughts
you give Him
the first movements
of your mind
and of your heart
you see
you don't let the devil
and you don't let worldly things
worldly cares get in there
so he points out
how precious a time is
is the morning
in monastic
monastic tradition
and the morning
is always prized for prayer
he says give that
to the Lord
that's your first fruits
then 27
why there are
different numbers of weeks
and so on
it's the same principle
the reason for the
40 day thing
is biblical
it is said that
Moses and Elijah
and our Lord Jesus Christ
fasted for 40 days
so people
are always anxious
to square
what they're doing
with the scriptures
so that's the reason
for moving
to 40 days
and 40
is always thought of
as being a period
of preparation
a period of
often penance
remember that
the Jews
were in the desert
for 40 years
and Moses and Jesus
was in the desert
for 40 days
and Moses
was on top of
Mount Sinai
for 40 days
and 40 nights
neither eating
nor drinking
and so on
about Elijah
I don't remember
when he
that was after he
that was when
he was going
to Mount Cordoba
the same mountain
that Moses fasted on
remember he went
three days
into the desert
and he laid down
under the broom tree
and he said
let me die
because I'm no better
than my father's
the angel came
and he touched him
and he gave him
a hearth cake
and he said
get up
and eat
because you have
a long way to go
and then he walked
40 days
I guess
until he came
to Mount Sinai
which is the same
the same mountain
where Moses
went to get food
to take him out
so he got
those three
classic fasts
in the scriptures
so that's a very
solid foundation
and then he gives
you a couple
of other reasons
one being
the civil tax
that they have
which is
one of the
other reasons
but now
here we get
to the important
he says
this is the law
that you give
a tithe
that you give
a tenth
of your life
but the people
who are
under the gospel
are not content
with length
they're not content
with just giving
a tithe
a tenth of their
but they give
their whole
of their life
to the Lord
their whole
of their life
to the Lord
now what does
this mean
practically it means
a monastic life
you see
if you read
the rule of
Saint Benedict
chapter 49
which is a
chapter on length
he says
the whole life
of a monk
ought to be
a continual
so this is
a pretty good
this is a pretty
good principle
that the monks
as it were
are a tithe
of the church
but they
are completely
offered to the Lord
so that their whole
life should be
a penitential
whereas the rest
of the church
takes a tithe
takes a tenth
of their life
and offers it
to the Lord
so the season
for length
would be more
then for
living in
over the
and he says
that length
they didn't need
because everybody
was fervent
when the church
began to get
then they set
aside a tenth
of the year
so at least
during that time
they could live
a penitential life
now remember
his theory of
the origin
of monasticism
was similar
he said
in the beginning
everybody was
the apostolic
church was fervent
but then afterwards
it fell off
from its first
and so certain
people went out
away from it
in order to
live a more
fervent life
of prayer
and repentance
and those were
the monks
so you see
the origin
of length
and the origin
of monasticism
are parallel
in fashion
at least according
to one of his
so monasticism
meant a natural
finally he gets
to this question
of grace
and the law
and the liberty
of the Christian
from the law
as St. Paul
says in
Romans 6
sin shall not
have dominion
over you
for you are
not under the
but under grace
for of a truth
sin cannot
over one who
lives faithfully
under the liberty
of grace
that starts
the next section
maybe the last
that is
and let's
leave that
for next time
and then
maybe we'll
go on to
the next
the one
we'll come back
to that later
when it's possible