Spiritual Life

 

MASTER OF SPIRITUAL LIFE

 

R. Cadiou who wrote four chapters on the Spirituality of Origen says, "Origen was, above everything else, a man devoted to the things of the spirit."

Henri de Lubac says,

Like John the Evangelist, he "reclined at the breast of Jesus." The one for whom he as a boy would have wished to meet martyrdom had forever enraptured the depths of his soul.

Jean Daniélou says,

Gregory of Nyssa and Evagrius Ponticus, the two great theorists who wrote on mystical theology in the fourth century, were both disciples of his (writings), and if Gregory went further than Origen in stressing the part played in the mystical union by love without light, he still was closely dependent on him. The line of thought started by Origen was carried on in the spirituality of the east by the Pseudo-Dionysius, who was a disciple of Gregory of Nyssa. Maximus the Confessor depends on him either directly or through Evagrius and the Pseudo-Dionysius, as Fr. Von Balthasar has shown. In addition, his spiritual teaching was transmitted to the West through Evagrius Ponticus, who handed it on to Cassian.

Walter Volker, whose interest is in spirituality, regards Origen as a master of spiritual life and a great mystic.

Fr. Aloysius Lieske accuses Volker of failing to see that Origen’s mystical theology is rooted in dogma and the Church. In fact, Origen uses some of the concepts found in the Platonist mystical writings in circulation at the time, just as St. Clement of Alexandria had done before him, but his theology of spiritual life struck a chord in the hearts of so many Christians, because it is first and foremost a product of the Bible. In Origen’s opinion there was no book equal to the holy Bible.

 


 

SPIRITUAL LIFE
OR
A JOURNEY OF THE SOUL

 

Origen considers spiritual life as a serious journey of the soul. Through this journey the soul returns by divine grace to her original nature, and becomes an icon of God. Thus, she can be raised up through canonical struggling till her return to the bosom of God.

It is a dangerous trip, or it is a continuos battle, but it has its sweetness through unceasing victory over the evil world, sin and demons. Believers examine the work of the Holy Trinity while they are struggling.

Through His grace God leads the soul on and on, from a knowledge of one’s self to the struggle against sin, to practices of asceticism, to the mystical ascent, until at last she is admitted to the mystical (spiritual) union with the Logos:

The soul is moved by heavenly love and longing when, having clearly beheld the beauty and the fairness of the Word of God,

it falls deeply in love with His loveliness and receives from the Word Himself a certain dart and wound of love...

If, then, a man can so extend his thinking as to ponder and consider the beauty and the grace of all the things that have been created in the Word, the very charm of them will so smite him, the grandeur of their brightness will so pierce him as with a chosen dart, as the prophet says (Isa. 49:2), that he will suffer from the dart Himself a saving wound, and will be kindled with the blessed fire of His love.

This trip of the souls is the ladder of Paradise, which the patriarch Jacob saw, being traversed by those spirits that fall away or by those other spirits that are restored, in the course of several lives, to the dignity they had at the beginning. The poem of heaven unrolls according to the same law. Heaven is peopled by souls that have fallen away but are more meek and mild than the others to wisdom, and they take part in the splendid liturgy of the celestial city. Moreover, a more perfect universe, is to come, in which matter, having become pure and ethereal, will form the new world.

 

 

DISCOVERING ONESELF

The first stage of spiritual life is that in which a believer returns to himself, acknowledges himself, and discovers world in miniature within himself.

Origen understands that the real world is the world inside man, or his spiritual being, which in a sense partakes of the nature of God. His concept originated in the meeting of two great doctrines:

1. The biblical one that man was created as an icon of God. To be more precise, man was made not just in God’s icon but in the icon of the Logos. It is said in the Book of the Song of Songs, "If you know not yourself, O fairest among women, go forth and follow after the steps of the flocks" (Song 1:7).

2. The Platonist one that man’s perfection depends on his likeness to God.

Man is also involved in the life of the senses, which is foreign to his essence. he loses God’s icon in so far as he molds himself to the pattern of animal life. Spiritual life will therefore consist of the process by which he returns to his true nature, his efforts first to realize what he is and then to try and recover his real nature by destroying the power of his corrupt animal life. To the extent to which he succeeds, he will recover the image of God that once was in him and in it will see God.

In other words, a believer in acknowledging his inner-self feels two realities:

1. His need to returning to his original nature by divine grace.

Who, although they have been given by God the grace of thinking on and understanding many things, neglect other spheres of knowledge and give no heed to self-knowledge.

He who does not realize his own weakness and the divine grace, even if he receives a benefit before he has come to know himself and condemn himself, will come as his own achievement what has actually been freely supplied him from the heavenly grace. This produces pride and arrogance, and will be a cause of his downfall.

2. The real world is within him.

Understand that you are another and that there is within you the sun, the moon, and the stars...

Do you doubt that the sun and the moon are within you to whom it is said that you are the light of the world?

 

Soul's journey and return to God

Origen explains spiritual life and progress, using different metaphors:

 

1. A Journey.

2. Growth to maturity .

3. Struggling in a spiritual battle.

 

I. A JOURNEY

Origen sees that all Church worship and liturgies are a divine journey. Baptism, for example is presented as the exodus and entrance to the true promised land, as the restoration of Paradise, and as entrance into the heavenly Jerusalem.

According to Rown A. Greer, Origen’s writings reveal that his primary interest lies in the drama of the soul's struggle to return to God or to attain unity with God. Origen's views of martyrdom, prayer and Scripture merge into one vision of the Christian life as a movement towards a perfect knowledge of God and perfect fellowship with Him through Christ.

Jean Daniélou in his book, "Origen," says that the spiritual journey begins with the advances made by the Word, our Savior. The soul’s response is her conversion: she sets out after Him as the Hebrews in Egypt did after the pillar of cloud, which was a figure of the Word or of the Holy Ghost. Origen then goes on to describe the successive stages in the journey, the various places where the soul stops and rests.

Origen finds this journey in the symbol of the crossing of the desert by the children of Israel.

 

The stages of this journey through the desert are figures of the mystical stages of our spiritual pilgrimage.

 

 

STAGES OF THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

I give here a summary of some stages of this journey which Origen presents in his Homilies on Exodus.

I. Entering the desert, leaving Raamses and every earthly thing.

We have to leave Pharaoh, the symbol of the devil, and his land. He does not want us to leave him, for he wants us to have the image of the man of dust and not bear the image of the Heavenly One (1 Cor. 15:49).

Those alone will have the courage to do this who desire no other lot here below but God. Moreover, it is possible only if we are upheld by Christ "who is our strength," and if we are guided by Moses (a symbol of faith) and Aaron (a symbol of works of worship). Moses himself did not know whither he was going, but "the Lord Himself became his guide," for the pillar of fire and the cloud were the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The devil begins to tremble when souls start their journey under the guidance of Christ, the Word and High-Priest, saying with Pharaoh, "lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up off the land" (Exod. 1:10).

Souls must leave Raamses (Exod. 1:11), which means "city of corruption or agitation." The enemy wants the souls to be in Raamses, in hard bondage and in confusion,, making bricks by mud, instead of contemplating on heavenly things..

"If you wish to be perfect, sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Matt. 19:21).

This is to depart from Raamses, and to follow Christ.

 

II. Celebrating the Pasch

The Hebrews celebrated the Pasch in Egypt, and the next day set out on their journey.

Origen states that the lamb of the Pasch must be roasted in fire (Exod. 12:9), for the believer is in need of the fiery spirit, holding the fiery words of God, as it is said to Jeremiah "Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire" (Jer. 5:14). Thus on hearing Christ speaking in us, we say, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the scriptures to us? ."

We go out of a world which is upset and agitated (Raamses), and we arrive at Sochoth, which means "the tents," for the soul is now a stranger here below. She lives in tents till she arrives to the everlasting house.

 

III. Camping in the third station: Etham (Exod. 13:20)

On the third station, which is a symbol of the resurrection of Christ on the third day, the soul encamps in Etham, which means "sign." It is the "Mystery of the Third Day," by which the Lord guides the believer and reveals to him the beginning of the way of salvation.

A believer cannot enter the wilderness of temptations and troubles, unless he has the experience of the risen life in Christ. There the Lord goes before the believer by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give him light, so as to go by day and night (Exod. 13:21).

Origen refers to the mystery of the third day on many occasions, for he believes that a believer cannot realize the trip of his soul unless he is supported by the resurrection of Christ, which had been realized on the third day.

I have mentioned this mystery in the previous book.

* Through the risen life of Christ, our thoughts, words and deeds (3) are sanctified, also the three elements of a believer would be sanctified.

* Abraham after the arrival of the appointed place on the third day (Gen. 22:4) offered joyfully his son Isaac as a burnt offering, as he beheld the sign of the resurrection of Christ.

* Moses asked Pharaoh to permit the people to go for three days in the desert to offer sacrifices to God (Exod. 3:18).

* Before entering the Promised Land God asked Joshua to tell the people that they have to be sanctified for three days before passing the Jordan River.

 

IV. Continuos ascent in the narrow and hard way of virtues

The Lord asked the people to go to Pi Hahitoth (Exod. 14:1), which means the "winding ascent."

Perhaps you used to think that the way which God shows would be level and easy and certainly would involve no difficulty or labor. It is an ascent and a winding ascent. For it is not a downhill way on which one strives towards virtue, but it is ascended and it is ascended with great difficulty. Hear also the Lord saying in the Gospel how "straight and narrow is the way which leads to life" (Matt. 7:14) .

 

V. Facing bitter trials and troubles

The following stage in the spiritual life is reached when the soul embarks on its passage through the period of a kind of purgation. This stage, with its trials and its occasional flashes of light, is figuratively represented by the crossing of the Red Sea, and approaching the "Bitter Waters": it is a hard trial to cross the sea with its storms, and to hear the noise and booming of the furious waves, but if we follow Moses, the Law of God, we shall cross the sea with dry feet. As for the "Bitter Waters," we must not be afraid of these:

If you enter upon the path of virtue, do not refuse to approach the bitter waters.

Origen explains how the children of God can walk on dry ground in the midst of the sea, attaining victory over the waters of sins and lusts, while the wicked people sink like lead in the mighty waters (Exod. 15:10).

It can happen that marching in the midst of sinners the liquid of sin may not pour over you;

it can happen that no wave of lust sprinkle you as you pass through this world, that no surge of desire strike you.

Origen also comments on the first hymn which the people sang after their victory (Exod. 15), saying "It is the custom of the saints to offer a hymn of thanks to God when an adversary is conquered."

 

How can we face the bitterness of the commandments of the Law and that of temptations and troubles?

Origen answers, that there is a need of the wisdom of Christ which is declared through the wood of the Cross, as it happened in Marah (Exod. 15:23-25)

If God shows a tree which is thrown into this bitterness so that the "water" of the Law becomes "sweet," they can drink from it...

The tree of the wisdom of Christ has been thrown into the Law..., then the water of Mara is made sweet and the bitterness of the letter of the Law is changed into the sweetness of spiritual understanding and then the people of God can drink...

Whence it is established that if anyone without "the tree of life," that is without the mystery of the cross, without faith in Christ, without spiritual understanding should wish to drink from the letter of the Law, he will die from too much bitterness.

 

VI. Arriving to the Desert of Sin (= Vision and Temptation)

They journeyed from Elim and came to the desert of Sin (Exod. 16:1), which name signifies "bush" and "temptation;" the bush is the vision of God, but visions are not unaccompanied by temptation. The soul comes to the desert of Sin. The word means both "vision" and "temptation". And there are in fact, Origen says, "visions which are also temptations, for sometimes the wicked angel "transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14)".

For sometimes the angel of darkness transforms himself into an angel of light; watchful attention is therefore necessary in order to discern the different visions. Thus Joshua, seeing a Vision and knowing that it might be a temptation, said to the one who appeared to him "Are you a friend or a foe?" In the same way the soul which makes progress when she begins to discern between visions, shows that she is truly spiritual if she always knows how to discern them. That is why amongst the spiritual gifts is included that of the discernment of spirits.

Where a storm blows, it can not shake the building which is established on a rock, but it reveals the weakness of the building’s stones which is built on the sand.

The Christian pilgrim must choose the narrow and straitened road that leads to his destiny. His travel is in winter where there is hardship and persecution.

All the blessed will first be obliged to travel the narrow and hard way in winter's storm (Matt. 7:14) to show what knowledge he had acquired for guiding his life, so that afterwards they will realize the words of the Song of Songs to the bride when she has safely passed through the winter. For she says, "My beloved answers and says to me, "Arise and come away, my love, my fair one, my dove; for lo, the winter is passed, the rain is over and gone" Songs 2:10-11... And after the winter is past and the rain is over and gone, the flowers will appear that are planted in the house of the Lord and flourish in the courts of our God (Ps. 92:13).

Moreover, when the soul sets out from Egypt of this life to go to the promised land, she necessarily goes by certain roads.. and observes certain stages that were made ready with the Father from the beginning... Who will be found worthy and so understanding of the divine mysteries that he can describe the stages of that journey and ascent of the soul and explain either the toils or the rest of each different place? For how will he explain that after the first and second stages Pharaoh is still in pursuit?...

 

VII. Passing from Sin (Temptation) to Dophkah (Num. 33: 12; Dophkah means Health)

The next stages are taken as relating to the soul’s recovery of health and the destruction of concupiscence. Now that the soul is cured and her strength restored, she begins to enter the specifically mystical region. That brings us to the knowledge (gnosis), the object of which is the knowledge of the things of God. Yet the fact that the soul has reached these heights does not mean that she escapes temptation.

Temptations are given her to guard her and keep her safe

Dophka signifies health. There are many illnesses of the soul. Avarice is a malady, and a detestable one; then there are pride, anger, boasting, fear, inconstancy, pusillanimity and all the others. When, O Lord Jesus, will You cure me from all my maladies? When shall I be able to say "O my soul, bless the Lord, who cures all your diseases?" When shall I also be able to establish myself in Raphaca, in health?

 

VIII. Arriving to Rephidim (meaning "sound judgment")

The man has attained soundness of judgment who rightly departs from temptation and whom temptation renders approved. For in the day of judgment he will be sound, and soundness will be with him who has not been wounded by temptation, as it is written in the Apocalypse, "But to him who has overcome I will give of the tree of life which is in the paradise of my God." (Rev. 2:7).

For the first time the people enter in a war against another nation "Amalek." Victory had been realized by the shadow of the cross, for Moses lifted his hands up while he was on the top of the hill. Our Lord Jesus lifted His hands up, overcoming all nations through His love.

Jesus had been exalted on the Cross and was about to embrace the whole earth with His arms.

IX. Respecting the wisdom of others, even if they are pagans.

Origen admires Moses who was full of God and spoke with God face to face but he did not despise the counsel of Jethro (Exod. 18).

Moses who was meek above all men (Num. 12:3), accepted the counsel of a lower man both that he might give a model of humility to the leaders of people and represent an image of the future mystery. For he knew that at some future time the Gentiles would offer good counsel with Moses, that they would bring a good and spiritual understanding to the Law of God.

X. Receiving the Law of God on Sinai

Through this divine trip we receive the Law of God on Sinai, "when the soul has become able to receive the divine secrets and the heavenly visions." Next comes the grave of lusts, then the open spaces of perfection and beatitude.

Notice well, O pilgrim, the law of your progress: when you have buried and mortified the concupiscence of the flesh, you will arrive at the wide open spaces of beatitude. Thence you pass on to Rathma and Pharan Rathma signifies "consummated vision;" Pharan "visible mouth." The soul has to grow that it be no longer importuned by the flesh, and that it may have consummated visions and grasp the perfect knowledge of things, that is, the causes of the Incarnation of the Word of God, that it may understand more fully and more deeply the reasons of his dispensations.

 

XI. Last station of perfection (Promised Land)

Finally, after further stages, the soul arrives to its destiny.

When the soul has passed through all these virtues and reached the summit of perfection, it leaves this world and goes away, as was written of Henoch "He was found no more, for God took him." Such a man seems still to live in this world and in the flesh; and yet he is no longer to be found. Where is he no longer found? In any worldly action, in any carnal thing, in any matter of vanity. For God has taken him away from all these, and has established him in the region of virtues. The final stage is in the west, in the land of Moab, opposite the Jordan For all this journey has no other end than to lead us to the river of God, to bring us to the flowing stream of wisdom, to bathe us in the waters of divine knowledge, so that, being purified by all these trials, we may be able to enter into the promised land.

Origen explains that through love the soul ascends on the mountain of Beauty, and realizes her journey. The longing of the soul for God is like the longing of Israel for the promised land. It is a yearning for Paradise and when purified allows the soul to pass the flaming swords of the cherubim and gain access to the tree of life. Or it is the pilgrim's desire for his true city, the heavenly Jerusalem.

Origen explains that this journey is realized by the divine grace and in the company of Christ who strengthen the soul in her travel, at the same time it needs the courage and endurance of the soul's believer.

 

2. THE GROWTH TO MATURITY

Believers are called to participate in the divine journey, so that their souls might leave Raamses and enter the Promised Land, or they attain a kind of maturity. Their souls grow from spiritual childhood to spiritual manhood.

(It is possible to be a child in the outer man but a man in the inner). Such was Jeremiah, who already possessed grace from God when he was still physically in the age of childhood.

 

Origen explains the need of the believer’s soul for spiritual food to grow up to maturity. He arranges these foods in a hierarchical order:

a. "Milk" by which the babes in Christ are nourished (Heb. 5:12-14).

b. "Vegetables" (Romans 14:2ff) for the weak.

c. "Solid food" (Heb. 5:12-14) for the mature or perfect.

All these different foods are to be equated with the Word of God (John 6:32-33), who accommodates his nourishing revelation to the condition of the one receiving It. This is how we receive our "daily" bread, which strengthens us to grow to maturity, and to become in the likeness of Christ.

The true bread is that which nourishes the true man, the man created after the image of God, and through which he who is nourished by it is made to the image of Him that created Him. What is more nourishing for the soul than the Word? And what is more precious for the mind of him that understands it than the Wisdom of God? And what is in better accord with rational nature than Truth?

Our responsibility for seeking the right food is never forgotten, but Origen's emphasis is upon God's gift and his providential guidance of our growth towards perfection.

It must be emphasized that Origen does not mean to distinguish different natures of Christians, as the Gnostics did. On the contrary, all are destined for perfection and maturity. But Origen realizes that this growth to perfection can not be accomplished for most Christians within the confines of this present life. Growth continues after this life and before the apokatastasis during which the simple are enabled to grow until they can receive solid food.

This concept of spiritual progress and of its stages has been set forth above according to Homily 27 of the Book of Numbers, because it is here that we best see it as a whole and in its details. But it is mentioned also very often in Origen's works. Some historians make this a matter for criticism. For St. Paul, they say, what appears in the moral life of a Christian is mainly the rupture with the past, accomplished once for all by the new birth; for Origen, on the contrary, it is a progressive development, a gradual ascent by which we successively climb the degrees of the perfect life.

Lebreton explains the difference between St. Paul’s doctrine and Origen’s in the following points:

a. It is noteworthy that St. Paul himself also indicates the various stages of the Christian life, for instance in I Cor. 3:1-2, Gal. 4:19.

b. Moreover, the readers of the epistles of St. Paul were just emerging from paganism; they still retained a painful memory of the darkness in which they had so long lived, and the joy of the wonderful light which had suddenly shone upon them. Origen's hearers, on the other hand, had for the most part been Christians for a long time. They were already children of light, and they were bound to live as such, having no more darkness, but being wholly transparent and shining forth with the light of Christ.

c. There is another contrast, which is deeper and more instructive. If we compare the doctrine of Origen with the speculative teaching of the Gnostics, we are the better able to realize their character by the contrast between them. One of the fundamental dogmas of Gnosticism is the essential distinction between the different races of men, the hylicals, the psychicals, and the pneumaticals: by natural necessity a man belongs to one of these classes, and it would be in vain to endeavor to change it. In Origen, the degrees of religious knowledge are certainly far removed from each other, but there is no abyss separating them; the whole effort of the preacher is aimed at leading Christians on to the highest union with God, for all God's children can and should aspire to this.

 

3. STRUGGLING IN A SPIRITUAL BATTLE

The pilgrim soul on its journey encounters war and must be ready for it. His comment of the arrival of the Jews to Sochoth (Num. 33) is:

The first progress of the soul is to be taken away from earthly agitation and to learn that she must dwell in tents (for Sochoth is interpreted "tents) like a wanderer, so that she can be, as it were, ready for battle and meet those who lie in wait for her unhindered and free.

Life is a battle in which are engaged the soldiers of God, and the soldiers of Satan. No neutrality is possible: "Every man endowed with reason is either a child of God or a child of the devil; for either he commits sin or he does not commit it; there is no middle course. If he sins, he is of the devil; if he does not sin, he is of God."

Through the believer's spiritual struggle against bodily lusts he expects temptations and he must acknowledge their advantages. Growth is a painful process, and that temptation and struggle never leave us until we have attained the maturity of perfection. He sees that "Sin" (Num. 33:36) means temptation, and that there is no other way of embarking on our journey to the Promised land except passing through it. For Origen a temptation is as a testing of gold in fire. It is also a providential process by which we are fashioned into what we should be. God is a divine goldsmith who brings us as vessels to the fire, strikes us with His hammers into an object of beauty suitable for his grandeur.

Origen says that there are two kinds of spiritual struggles:

I. A struggle of the saints, such as St. Paul and the Ephesians, as it is said, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

II. A struggle of those who are weaker and have their own faults; they wrestle against flesh and blood, for they are surrounded with vices and corporeal lusts. Their struggle is through their body’s senses. The five kings who fought with the Gibeonites (Jos 9:1) are symbols of the war through the senses.

It is much better that the sinner should be in torment than that his mind should be at ease. "I wish to God I could feel a fire scorching my heart and burning my bones [cf. Jer. 20:. 9] the minute I committed any sin or said anything I deserved to be blamed for."

Origen and Gregory concentrate on the gradual development of the human soul, which is freed from bondage to earthly delights and rises to union with God.

Rown A. Greer says,

The journey, the growth to maturity, and the warfare or contest are all dependent on the freedom of the Christian. But as has been suggested, they are also placed within the context of God’s providence, which continually trains our freedom. Christ accompanies the Christian on his journey, feeds him with true bread, and assists him in his struggle. Moreover, providence assists the Christian through the saints, both departed and present and through the angels. The Christian life is thereby given a wider setting...

If our warfare is against Satan and his hosts, we have spiritual powers for good on our side so that the conflict is not unequal.

POSITIVE ATTITUDE OF STRUGGLES

Our struggle has two aspects: negative and positive. For we have not only to leave evil (negative) but also to do what is good (positive).

Origen explains how Joshua conquered the pagan cities not by the aim of destroying them, but of sanctifying them.

1. For example one of these cities was "Libnah" (Num. 33:21) which means "white." Origen says that these are two kinds of "white," the white of leprosy and the white light. The city was white because it was suffering from the leprosy of the pagan kings. Joshua destroyed this whiteness to grant it the whiteness of light under his reign.

2. The same thing happened to "Lachish" (Jos. 10:32) which means "way." It was the way of the evildoers which has to be destroyed (Ps. 1:6) and through Joshua because it was the right way (Ps. 107:7). Lachish was the way of the evildoers, after it was conquered and robbed it was established anew as a right way, under the reign of Israel.

3. Also "Habron" which means "marriage. "

The soul married at first the Devil as an evil husband. After the death of this congest husband and her freedom of his rule she married the Man of Righteousness, the legal husband of whom the apostle Paul says, " For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2) .

4. Origen says that the first war of the Word is uprooting the evil which the Father did not plant, and burning it. The second work is to plant what is good in the souls of the believers every day.

(Christ) uproots the auger and plants calmness, uproots pride and plants humbleness, uproots the defilement’s and plants chastity, uproots ignorance and plants knowledge...

GRACE AND SPIRITUAL STRUGGLING

It is the journey of the soul under the guidance of divine grace which grants her zeal for struggling against evil and practising the good life, granting her virtues..

God’s grace is not given to those who lack zeal in the cause of good, nor can human nature achieve virtue without help from above.

For he who has achieved virtue from his toil and sweat receives an addition from God: for example, when a man has achieved faith by the exercise of his own free will, who will be granted a grace-gift of faith [I Cor. 12:9], and (in sum) a man who has improved some one of his natural resources by care and attention will be granted what is still lacking from God.

STRUGGLING WITHOUT DESPAIR

Origen compares the rise of the fallen Christian to the splendid display of power of a combatant in the public games who had the misfortune to fall first but who arose and with renewed energy won over his adversary. Our combat, he continues, is much the same. If one of us has had the misfortune to fall into sin, one must not give up all hope, because

it is possible for one to regain one’s composure, and to shudder at the evil, which one has committed; and furthermore, it is possible not only to restrain oneself, but also to satisfy God, in tears and lamentations... If you should see that someone has fallen into some sin, and that after his fall he is in despair about his conversion, repeating, as he does: how can I be saved, I who have fallen? There is no longer any hope for me; my sins hinder me. How can I even dare to approach the Lord? How can I return to the Church?... Let him not remain on the ground after his fall. Let him not lie prostrate; but rather let him arise and amend his fault. Let him wipe out the sin by the satisfaction of his penance.

But if anyone returns to his conscience, I do not know if we are able to excuse some member of the body which was not in need of fire. And since the prophet was indeed clean from all things, therefore, he deserved that "one of the seraphim be sent to him " (Cf. Isa 6.6), who would purify only his lips. But I am afraid that we merit fire not only for individual members but for the whole body. For when our eyes lust either through illicit passions or through devilish spectacles what else do they gather for themselves except fire? When our ears are not turned from hearing vain and derogatory things of neighbors, when our hands are by no means restrained from murder and from robberies and from plundering, when our "feet are swift to shed blood," (Cf. Ps 13.3.) and when we hand over our body not to the Lord but to fornication, what else do we hand over "into Gehenna" (Cf. Matt 5.29.) except our whole body?

 


SPIRITUAL LIFE

AS A

FESTIVAL AND JOYFUL LIFE

 

Origen speaks of spiritual life as a hard and dangerous trip of the soul and as a continuos battle, but its atmosphere is heavenly, for even through struggle a believer practices the fellowship with Christ, acknowledging the dwelling of the Holy Spirit within himself, attaining the knowledge of the mysteries of the Father. His life becomes a festival and Sabbatical day.

 

1. PRACTISING HEAVENLY LIFE

The prophet says, "You brought over a vine from Egypt; you drove out nations and planted it. You made a passable way before it; you planted its roots and it filled the earth. Its shade covered the mountains and its branches the cedars of God."(Cf. Ps. 79.9-11.)

Do you perceive now how God plants and where he plants? He does not plant in the valleys, but on the mountains in high and lofty places. He does not wish to place again in lowly places those whom he led out of Egypt, whom he led from the world to faith, but he wishes their mode of life to be uplifted. He wishes us to dwell in the mountains, but also in these very mountains no less does he not wish us to crawl all over the ground, nor does he wish further that his vine have its fruit cast down to the ground, but he wishes its shoots to be led upwards, to be placed aloft. He wishes that there be vine branches not in just any lowly trees, but in the loftiest and highest cedars of God. I think the "cedars of God" are the prophets and apostles. If we are joined to them as the vine which "God brought over from Egypt" and our shoots are spread along their branches and, resting on them, we become like vine branches bound to one another by bonds of love, we shall doubtless produce very much fruit. For "every tree which does not produce fruit is cut down and cast into the fire"(Luke 3:10).

It is not because of the place where he dwells, but because of his dispositions, that he who is still on earth has his citizenship in heaven and lays up treasures in heaven (Phil. 3:20; Matt. 6:20f.), Having his heart in heaven and bearing the image of the Heavenly One (1 Cor. 15:49), he is no longer of the earth nor of the lower world (John 3;31; 8:23;18:36), but of heaven and the heavenly world that is better than this.

It says, "He went up to the higher place to pray and he saw the heavens open" (Acts 10:9, 11). Does it not yet appear to you that Peter had gone up "to the higher," not only in the body but also in mind and spirit? It says, "he saw the heaven open and a certain vessel descending to the earth like a sheet in which were all quadrupeds, reptiles, and fowls of the sky. And he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Arise, Peter, kill and eat’ (Acts 10:11-13).

What happens after this? "Go," the text says, "into the high land, to one of the mountains which I shall show you, and there you shall offer him for an holocaust" (Gen. 22.2)... He is sent, therefore, "into the high land" and the high land is not sufficient for a patriarch about to accomplish so great a work for the Lord, but he is also ordered to ascend a mountain, of course that, exalted by faith, he might abandon earthly things and ascend to things above .

Believers attain this heavenly life through the work of the cross.

For Christ, "through His blood has made peace with things on earth and things in heaven" (Col. 1:20) so that the earthly might have fellowship with the heavenly.

Just as the sun and the moon are said to be the great lights in the firmament of heaven, so also are Christ and the Church in us. But since God also placed stars in the firmament, let us see what are also stars in us, that is, in the heaven of our heart.

Origen comments on the words " ...divides the water which is above heaven from the water which is below heaven" Gen. 1:7, saying,

Therefore, by participation in that celestial water which is said to be above the heavens, each of the faithful becomes heavenly, that is, when he applies his mind to lofty and exalted things, thinking nothing about the earth but totally about heavenly things, "seeking the things which are above, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father" (Col. 3:1). For then he also will be considered worthy of that praise from God which is written here when the text says: "And God saw that it was good" (Gen. 1:8).

 

2. SPIRITUAL LIFE AS A FESTIVAL LIFE

St. Clement, as we have seen, considers the Christian life as an unceasing feast, asking us: "holding festival... in our whole life." To him the true Gnostic attains the new life in Christ as a Festival. Origen has the same idea, for to him the Christian celebrates the Passover both at Eastertime as a memorial of Christ's death, and at all times by feasting with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth and the bitter herbs of sorrow and repentance. His life is a Paschal or unceasing feast, full of spiritual joy through repentance.

Tell me, you who come to church only on festive days, are the other days not festive days? Are they not the Lord’s days?

For Origen, "Every day is the Lord’s Day... therefore Christians eat the flesh of the Lamb daily; they consume each day the flesh of the Word, for Christ our Passover has been scarified (1 Cor. 5:7)."

 

3. SPIRITUAL LIFE AS A JOYFUL LIFE

Origen comments on the words of the Psalmist: "Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound" (Ps. 89: 15), saying:

He does not say: "Blessed are the people who practise righteousness," or "who have the knowledge of heaven, earth and stars," but "who know the joyful sound!" Sometimes the fear of God grants man a joy...

Here blessedness is presented in abundance, why? For all the people participate in it, and all know the companionship in joyful sound!

Isaac, scripture says, "grew" and became strong, that is, Abraham’s joy grew as he looked not at those things "which are seen, but at the things which are not seen." (Cf. 2 Cor. 4:18) For Abraham did not rejoice about present things nor about the riches of the world and the activities of age. But do you wish to hear why Abraham rejoiced? Hear the Lord saying to the Jews: "Abraham your father desired to see my day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56) in this way, therefore, "Isaac grew"; (Cf. Gen. 21:8) that vision of Abraham, in which he saw the day of Christ, and the hope which is in Christ were increasing his joys. And would that you too might be made Isaac and be a joy to your mother the church

4. SPIRITUAL LIFE AS A SABBATICAL LIFE

In his Contra Celsus, Origen states that a Christian’s soul has its true rest (Sabbath), in the contemplation of divine things, and thus she examines the Sabbath of eternity. In other words, as God has His rest on the seventh day, not in terms of inactivity, but in terms of contemplating in His works which He had done, so the believer’s life becomes Sabbatical, not by abstention from good works, but by contemplation on God, His works, and His heavenly glory.

Everyone... who lives in Christ lives ever on the Sabbath: and rests in peace from evil works, but does the works of righteousness without ceasing. But many who have the name of Christ but not His grace, live in sabbatical holiday from good works and do bad ones.

 


 

CHRISTIAN VIRTUES

 

JESUS CHRIST IS OUR VIRTUE

Virtue according to Origen is to be one with Christ, for He is the Virtue that fills Him. He is the Justice, Wisdom, Truth. He who practices virtue shares in the divine nature.

To seek Jesus is the same as to seek the Word, Wisdom, Justice, Truth, and the almighty power of God, as Christ is all these.

I think, therefore, that Sara, which means prince or one who governs empires, represents arete, which is the virtue of the soul. This virtue, then, is joined to and clings to a wise and faithful man, even as that wise man who said of wisdom: "I have desired to take her for my spouse." (Wis 8.2.) For this reason, therefore, God says to Abraham: "In all that Sara has said to you, hearken to her voice." (Gen. 21.12.) This saying, at any rate, is not appropriate to physical marriage, since that well known statement was revealed from heaven which says to the woman of the man: "In him shall be your refuge (This rendering is based on the LXX apostrophe. Rufinus’ text has conversion.) and he shall have dominion over you." (Gen. 3.16.) If, therefore, the husband is said to be lord of his wife, how is it said again to the man: "In all that Sara has said to you, hearken to her voice"? (Gen. 21.12.) If anyone, therefore, has married virtue, let him hearken to her voice in all which she shall counsel him.

And indeed the Scripture designates the progress of the saints figuratively by marriages. Whence also you can, if you wish, be a husband of marriages of this kind. For example, if you freely practice hospitality, you will appear to have taken her as your wife. If you shall add to this care of the poor, you will appear to have obtained a second wife. But if you should also join patience to yourself and gentleness and the other virtues, you will appear to have taken as many wives as the virtues you enjoy.

Just as the Savior is Righteousness, Truth and Sanctification in person, even so is He "endurance"(Jer. 17:3 LXX) in Person. It is impossible to be righteous or holy without Christ: and impossible to "endure" unless one possesses Him. For He is the ‘endurance" of Israel.

You are Righteousness, we have followed You as Righteousness: and in the same way as Sanctification, Wisdom, Peace, Truth, the Way leading to God, the true Life.

GOD, THE SOURCE OF VIRTUES

God is the source of our virtues, which grow in us gradually. No virtue, no perseverance, is immune to the possibility of change unless it is of Christ, whose human soul chose the good without any resort to that libertas indifferentiae which would have confronted Him with a choice between good and evil. This is true for men, for angels, for every creature. Creatures are divine in that degree only in which God is present within them, and, "in the absence of divine Wisdom, they are counted as nothing." Their goodness does not belong to them, and only through trials and afflictions do they obtain perseverance. We cannot speak of self-control or of indifference to suffering without remembering that they come "from the grace of God, to which are added the efforts of man."

In God all these virtues exist for ever; and they can never come to Him or depart from Him, whereas men acquire them gradually and one by one.

In this way, then, through the ceaseless work on our behalf of the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit, renewed at every stage of our progress, we may perchance just succeed at last in beholding the holy and blessed life; and when after many struggles we have been able to attain to it we ought so to continue that no satiety of that blessing may ever possess us; but the more we partake of its blessedness, the more may the loving desire for it deepen and increase within us, as ever our hearts grow in fervor and eagerness to receive and hold fast the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

But, if Christ is Righteousness, he who has received righteousness confesses not himself but Christ; so also he who has found wisdom, by the very possession of Wisdom, confesses Christ. And such a one indeed as, "with the heart believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth makes confession unto salvation (Rom. 10:10)," and bears testimony to the works of Christ, as making confession by all these things of Christ before men, will be confessed by Him before His Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32). So also he who has not denied himself but denied the Christ will experience the saying, "I also will deny him (Matt. 10:33) ."

For perhaps also each of those who have been crucified with Christ puts off from himself the principalities and the powers, and makes a show of them and triumphs over them in the cross; or rather, Christ does these things in them.

Therefore, the soul conceives from this seed of the word and the Word forms a fetus in it until it brings forth a spirit of the fear of God. For so the souls of the saints say through the prophet, "By your fear, Lord, we conceived in the womb and brought forth in labor and gave birth; we have made and brought forth in labor and gave birth; we have made the spirit of your salvation upon the earth" (Isa. 26:18). This is the birth of the holy souls, this is conception; these are holy unions which are convenient and apt for the great high priest, Christ Jesus our Lord, "to whom is glory and power forever and ever. Amen! (Cf. 1 Pet. 4:11; Rev. 1:6)."

But do you want me to show you from the Scriptures that trees or wood are given the name of individual virtues, which we mentioned above? I turn to the most wise Solomon as a witness when he said about wisdom, "The tree of life is for all who embrace it" (Prov. 3:18). Therefore, if "wisdom is the tree of life, " without a doubt, there is another tree of prudence, another of knowledge, and another of justice. For logically it is not said that only wisdom, of all the virtues, was worthy to be called "the tree of life" but that the other virtues by no means received names of a similar sort. Therefore, "the trees of the field will give their fruit" (Lev. 26:4).

(Paul in Romans 12) ties up with the gift of grace moral precepts, to show that to Christians these too are given by the grace of God. For there are many Gentiles whose moral standards are orderly and whose institutions are honorable, who never ascribe the merit of these to God or confess that they received grace from Him; they lay them to the credit of their own industry, or preen themselves on their masters and legislators. But the apostle makes clear to us that everything that is good comes from God and is given through the Holy Spirit (and Origen quotes James 1:17, I Cor 1:31) .

The truth may be that each virtue is a kingdom of heaven, and that all together are the kingdom of the heavens. This would mean that the man who lives by the virtues is already in the kingdom of the heavens, and (for example) that the saying "repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand" (Matt. 3:2) has no temporal reference, but a reference to actions and purpose. For Christ, who is each and every virtue, has come to dwell with us and speaks-and therefore the "Kingdom of God" is "within His disciples" and not "here or there" (Luke 17:21) .

If "a branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine," it is clear that the disciples of the Word, the spiritual branches of the true vine (the Word), cannot bear the fruits of virtue unless they abide in the true vine, the Christ of God...

Virtue, by definition, is a spiritual battle, it is the activity by which the soul, by divine grace, governs the body and its motions; vice, an activity in which the motions or passions of the body wrongfully gain control of the governing mind and the servant becomes master.

Precepts are given to pay debts. But what we do over and above what we owe we do not do by precept. For instance, virginity is not a payment of debt, nor is it demanded by a precept, but it is offered over and above what is owed.

The verse says, "To those that love God all things collaborate unto good." The Christian must conform himself to the image of Christ; the Christian becomes Christ’s spirit when he has so attached himself to the Word and Wisdom of God in all things that in no way is the image and likeness discolored. And thus if one wishes to attain to the summit of perfection and beatitude one seeks after the likeness of Christ’s image, the image of the Son of God.

Lack of God is never natural to any human soul. For the soul to be re-established, it is enough that the light comes to it. Always the light can come without harm or loss to itself, for it comes only in the measure of the needy soul’s capacity to receive it. When it has once been received, it must be kept alive by holy practices and by attendance at salutary instructions, for all around it there is the darkness of evil thoughts affecting even the actions. This explains why the light is wisdom first and justice afterward.

"There is work for those who dig the wells of living water, wherever they labor; that is, for those who teach the word of God to every soul and draw from it its salutary fruit... Let us dig those wells that were within us and throw out the earth that chokes them. We shall make the waters come forth again, even unto overflowing, because the Word of God is within us."

THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE SENSES

In the spiritual battle, man’s senses are sanctified, not by destroying them as evil things, but destroying what is evil so that they might be directed towards worshipping God, edification of the soul, and serving others.

Commenting on the five Amorite Kings who were executed by Joshua (Jos. 10:16-27), Origen says

This, in my opinion, means that the five carnal senses, after being conquered by Jesus and deposing them from their denial of faith, and after the death of sin in them as they become free from the servitude of sin, these senses become in the service of the spirit in doing righteousness.

Thus Jerusalem who was ruled by a king who was not noble became ruled by David the strong king and the wise Solomon.

Do you wish that I show you from the Scriptures how the devil opens the mouth of men of this kind who speak against Christ? Note what has been written about Judas, how it is reported that "Satan entered him," (John 13.27.) and that "the devil put it in his heart to betray Him." (Cf. John 13.2.) He, therefore, having received the money, opened his mouth that "he might confer with the leaders and the Pharisees, how he might betray him." (Cf. Luke 22.4.) Whence it seems to me to be no small gift to perceive the mouth which the devil opens. Such a mouth and words are not discerned without the gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in the distributions of spiritual gifts, it is also added that "discernment of spirits" is given to certain people (Cf. 1 Cor 12.10.) It is a spiritual gift, therefore, by which the spirit is discerned, as the Apostle says elsewhere, "Test the spirits, if they are from God" (Cf. 1 John 4.1.)

But as God opens the mouth of the saints, so, I think, God also may open the ears of the saints to hear the divine words. For thus Isaiah the prophet says: "The Lord will open my ear that I may know when the word must be spoken"(Cf. Is 50.4-5.) So also the Lord opens eyes, as "the Lord opened Agar's eyes and she saw a well of living water" (Gen. 21:19). But also Eliseus the prophet says: "`Open, O Lord, the eyes of the servant that he may see that there are more with us than with the enemy.' And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant and behold, the whole mountain was full of horses and chariots and heavenly helpers."(Cf. 4 Kings 6.16-17.) For "the angel of the Lord encircles those who fear him and will deliver them" (Ps. 33:8).

You see (Lev. 14:17) how by the last and highest purification the ear is to be purified that the hearing may be kept pure and clean; Or at least since the Lord in the gospel testifies that the hearts of sinners are besieged by "seven demons, "the priest" appropriately "sprinkles seven times before the Lord" in purification that the expulsion "of the seven evil spirits" from the heart of a person purified may be shown by "the oil shaken seven times from the fingers."

THE INNER SENSES

Origen who believes in the world of the inner man as the true world, concentrates on the inner senses. As the body has its sense by which it can acknowledge what is visible and earthly, the soul also has its senses through which she can see God and His heaven, hear Him, and keep in touch with Him.

And to these let us add five others which are the senses of the inner man, through which either is made "pure in heart we see God" or "have ears to hear" the things which Jesus teaches. Or, we take that "odor" about which the Apostle says, "for we are the pleasing odor of Christ" (2 Cor. 2:15). Or we even take that taste about which the prophet says, "Taste and see that the Lord is sweet" (Ps. 33:9), or that touch which John mentions, "We have seen with our eyes and have touched with our hand concerning the Word of Life" (1 John 1:1). "But to all of these we add one more so that we may refer all these things to the one God. And indeed, these things were spoken concerning the restoration of those things which had been removed from the sanctuary by any fault.

HUNGER FOR THE WORD OF GOD

The believer whose soul desires her restoration as an icon of God, and her return to God, is hungry for the word of God.

For the Word of God is adjusted to the needs of human souls and is to be measured by the desire of him who enjoys it. It is like the bread which does not change, but the taste of which depends on the hunger of him who eats it.

Here was Origen’s notion of the work of transformation, the labor of love, where the Christian soul measures its own spiritual progress.

"I beseech you, therefore, be transformed (cf. Eph. 4:20-24, Rom. 12:1-2).

Resolve to learn that you can be transformed and put aside the form of swine, which describes the impure soul, and the form of dog, which describes the person who barks and howls and speaks abusively.

It is possible to be transformed (even) from serpents. For he wicked person is addressed: "You serpent and brood of vipers!" (cf. Matt. 23:33).

If, then, we are willing to hear that it is in our power to be transformed from serpents, from swine, from dogs, let us learn from the apostle the transformation that depends on us. This is how he puts it "We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness" (2 Cor. 3:18).

If you were a barker and the Word molded you and changed you, you were transformed from a dog to a human being.

If you were impure, and the Word touched your soul, and if you offered yourself to be shaped by the Word, you were changed from a swine into a human being.

If you were a wild beast, on hearing the Word which tames and domesticates, which changed you by the will of the Word into a human being, you will no longer be addressed: "You serpent and brood of vipers!" (cf. Matt. 23:33).

"When we neglect study, the truths that we already know lose their appeal," as the psalmist warns us.

In his commentary on the Psalms, he wrote to Ambrose in these terms:

"Under the pretense of seeking the knowledge of God, the heretics rise against the church, bringing forward their works composed of numerous books in which they claim to explain the Gospels and the apostolic writings. If I remain silent and fail to put forward the true and real doctrines of Christ, they will then proceed to conquer the greedy souls who, in default of healthy food, grasp at the filthy and abominable foods that are forbidden... With regard to you, this was indeed your own history. Unable to find masters capable of giving you the higher knowledge and captured by an unenlightened and ignorant form of belief, you sought the love of Christ in opinions you had formerly abandoned. But you subsequently renounced those opinions, by abjuring them as soon as you made use of the intelligence which has been given to you. I speak thus in order to defend those who know how to teach and to write. But if I must speak for myself, I will confess that I am not perhaps such a man as God renders capable of being His minister of the New Testament. I may be so according to the letter, but not according to the spirit. So I have been guilty of presumption in devoting myself to the work of scriptural exegesis."

MEDITATING IN THE NEW AND OLD TESTAMENT

We must endeavor, therefore, in every way to gather in our heart, "by giving heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching," (1 Tim. 4:13) and by "meditating in the Law of the Lord day and night," (Ps. 1:2), not only the new oracles of the Gospels and of the apostles and their Revelation, but also the old things in the Law "which has the shadow of the good things to come" (Heb. 10:1), and in the prophets who prophesied in accordance with them.

 

 

SPIRITUAL LOVE

May the way of the Lord be prepared in our hearts, for the heart of man is so great and wide, as if it was the world.

Look to its greatness not into a bodily quantity, but in the power of the mind which gives it the ability to embrace very great knowledge of the truth.

Then, let the hard way be prepared in your hearts through a suitable life, and in good and perfect works, so this way will preserve your lives in righteousness, and the words of the Lord enter into you without obstacle.

LOVE OF ENEMIES

As our Lord Jesus Christ, who is Love, is our Virtue, and our soul asks Him to be transformed unto His icon, therefore we practice love to all creatures, except the devil, for he alone is the true enemy of God and His children.

We don’t hate our persecutors as our enemies, but through love we pray for them, knowing that the only enemy is the devil who urges men to be cruel.

If, then, you ever see your persecutor raging very much, know that he is being urged on by a demon as his rider and, therefore, is fierce and cruel.

"And you will pursue your enemies" (Lev. 26:7). What "enemies" except "the devil" himself "and his angels" (Cf. Lev. 26:3) and evil spirits and "unclean demons" (Cf. Luke 4:33). We will pursue them not only to drive them from ourselves but also from others whom they attack, if we keep the divine precepts. It says, "You will pursue your enemies and they will fall dead in your sight" (Lev. 26:7). If "God grinds Satan swiftly under our feet" (Cf. Rom. 16:20),"the enemies will fall dead in our sight" (Cf. Lev. 26:7).

HUMBLENESS

Henri de Lubac says,

He (Origen) wants us to humble ourselves deeply so that we may deserve to hear the sweetness of His voice. He declares that all the good things which man can expect and which God can give are summed up in Jesus. He praises those who contemplate Christ and who remain bound to him "by a bond of tender affection," and those who prefer to put their trust in His words rather than in their own conscience. Even as Origen smiles at Jesus’ childhood, so he suffers with Him the suffering and humiliation of his Passion which he at times evokes with startling realism. He admires the majesty of his silence. He also meditates on the first pages of the gospel; and from Jesus’ submission to Joseph he learns that, no matter how great one may be, there is no better thing than to live in humble submission. He announces that there is no true Christian life in separation from the man who was the Christ and from Mary his mother. He often speaks of "my Jesus," "my Lord," "my Savior." This personal touch had become so much a habit with him that he at times slipped into introducing it even into his quotations from Scripture. It is a Pauline trait; but Origen’s insistent usage makes something new of it, a sort of conquest of Christian piety.

If you are not "humble and peaceful," the grace of the Holy Spirit cannot live within you, if you do not receive the divine words with fear. For the Holy Spirit departs from the proud and stubborn and false soul.

HELPING WEAKER PERSONS

Note this, too, that Mary being the greater comes to Elisabeth, who is the less, and the Son of God comes to the Baptist; which should encourage us to render help without delay to those who are in a lower position, and to cultivate for ourselves a moderate station.

SOBRIETY

Sobriety is the mother of all virtues just as, on the other hand, drunkenness is the mother of all vices.

 

HOSPITALITY

He escapes the flames, he escapes the conflagration for this reason alone: because he opened his house to strangers. Angels entered the hospitable house; fire entered the houses closed to strangers.

ALMSGIVING

If, then, any one in our time who has the bag of the Church speaks likes Judas on behalf of the poor, but takes away what is put therein, let there be assigned to him the portion along with Judas who did these things.

 

OVERCOMING TEMPTATIONS

The Savior then compels the disciples to enter into the boat of temptations and to go before Him to the other side, and through victory over them to go beyond critical difficulties; but when they had come into the midst of the sea, and of the waves in the temptations, and of the contrary winds which prevented them from going away to the other side, they were not able, struggling as they were without Jesus, to overcome the waves and the contrary wind and reach the other side. Wherefore the Logos, taking compassion upon them who had done all that was in their power to reach the other side, came to them walking upon the sea, which for Him had no waves or wind that was able to oppose if He so willed; for it is not written, "He came to them walking upon the waves,: but, "upon the waters;" (Matt. 14:25).

Then when we see many difficulties besetting us, and with moderate struggle we have swum through them to some extent, let us consider that our boat is in the midst of the sea, distressed at that time by the waves which wish to shipwreck us concerning faith or some one of the virtues; but when we see the spirit of the evil one striving against us, let us conceive that then the wind is contrary to us. When then in such suffering we have spent three watches of the night - that is, of the darkness which is in the temptations - striving nobly with all our might and watching ourselves so as not to make shipwreck concerning the faith or some one of the virtues, - the first watch against the father of darkness and wickedness, the second watch against his son "who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or any thing that is worshipped" (2 Thess. 2:4), and the third watch against the spirit (The conception of Origen seems to be that opposed to the Divine Trinity there is an evil trinity. Cf. book 12:20) that is opposed to the Holy Spirit, then we believe that when the fourth watch impends, when "the night is far spent, and the day is at hand," (Rom. 13:12) the Son of God will come to us, that He may prepare the sea for us, walking upon it.

 


SIN

 

CONCEPT OF SINNING

What is the meaning of sinning in the mind of Origen?

1. As our virtues is Christ Himself, so lacking of the fellowship with Christ and unity with the Father is sinning.

2. Virtue is restoring the nature of the soul to be the icon of the Logos, and sinning is a lack of this icon.

3. Virtue is attributing the soul to God as one of His children, and sinning is attributing to the devil. A soul who refuses her Father, and Heavenly Groom, becomes widowed and desolate like Jerusalem. Such a soul readily becomes the prey of its enemies. Indeed, its distress only adds to the strength of its foes. As progress in virtue on the part of the soul weakens the devil and dissipates his power as the wind carries away the dust in the road, so sin on the contrary encourages him and makes him daring. He then hurls himself at the noblest part of the soul and despoils it. Thus confusion takes the place of order in the life of the soul. My sins, says the sinner, weigh heavily on my shoulders and my strength is gone. Sin takes possession of the soul and rules it completely. The soul is thus held in bondage without ever being able to realize commensurably its own desires or to satisfy them in any degree. Origen began to view evil as boundless, and passion as a kind of infinity.

4. Virtue is attaining the enlightenment of our inner man by the work of the Word of God, the Truth, who reveals the divine knowledge to His bride, and sinning is ignorance which is realized by the devil who endeavors to destroy every divine knowledge, so that we may be admitted to his kingdom of darkness.

Sin obscures the vision of God, but not entirely for all: Certain reminiscences remain - knowledge, of whose primal source the soul is not aware.

Sins are harlotry and attack the virginity of Christ’s bride, the soul, and even more, the Church.

 

BITTERNESS OF SINS

As sinning is a lack of fellowship with Christ, the sweetness of the soul, the Nourisher, and Source of her freedom, therefore sin is very bitter. It is a servitude to the severe devil, who strips her from all inner beauty and glory.

Truly all kinds of sins are bitter. There is nothing more bitter than them, even if these sins have a kind of sweetness at first, as Solomon says...

On the contrary righteousness seems to be at first bitter, but at the end it is more sweet then honey, when it produces the fruit of virtue.

How speedy is the banishment of the pleasures!

How its annihilation is very soon!

This which the sinners think that is remaining for good!

 

FIRE OF SINS

Origen distinguishes between the divine fire inflamed within us through the word of God which enlightens our inner man, and that inflamed through sin which destroys our inner beauty and goodness. On the first fire he says,

"The declaration of the Lord has set him on fire" (Cf. Ps. 118:140). And again in the gospel it was written, after the Lord spoke to Cleopas, "Was not our heart burning within us when he opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:18, 32)... On the other fire he says, "This fire is not from the altar of the Lord, but it is that which is called" an alien fire" and you heard a little earlier that those who brought " a foreign fire before the Lord were destroyed" (Cf. Lev. 16:1). You also burn when wrath fills you and when rage inflames you; meantime you burn also with the love of the flesh and you are cast away into the fires of most disgraceful passions. But all this is "an alien fire" and contrary to God, which, without a doubt, whoever burns will endure the lot of Nadab and Abiud (Cf. Lev. 10:1,2)."

It says, "And he will take a censor filled with coals." (Lev. 16.12.) Not all are cleansed by this fire which is taken "from the altar." (Cf. Lev 16.12.) Aaron is cleansed by that fire, so is Isaiah, and any who are like them. But others who are not of this kind, among whom I also reckon myself, shall be cleansed by another fire. I fear it is the one about which it was written, "A river of fire was flowing before him." (Dab 7.10.) This "fire" is not "from the altar." The fire that is "from the altar" is the fire of the Lord. But that which is outside the altar is not of the Lord but is properly of each one who sins, about whom it said, "Their worm will not die, and their fire will not be extinguished." (Isa 66.24.) Therefore, this "fire" is of those who have ignited it just as it also was written in another place, "Walk in your fire and in the flame which you kindled for yourselves." (Isa 50.11)

We can also add the fact that the nature of sin is like the material which is consumed by fire, which the Apostle Paul says is built upon by sinners who "upon the foundation" of Christ "build wood , hay and straw" (Cf. 1 Cor. 3:12) In this it is shown openly that there are certain sins so light that they are compared "to straw," on which the fire, when brought, cannot last long; but that there are others like "hay" which the fire also consumes easily, but which lasts a little longer than "the straw."

FRUITS OF SINS

Sin makes man small and petty; virtue keeps him distinguished and great. For just as bodily sickness makes the human body feeble and poor, but good health renders it joyful and strong, so understand that the sickness of sin also certainly makes the soul lowly and small, but good health of the inner person and works of truth make it great and distinguished and to the degree that it grows in virtues, it yields a larger greatness. That is how I understand what was written about Jesus, "He grew in wisdom and in age and in grace before God and men (Luke 2:52).

Each sin by its nature and extent pays its due penalties...

 

 

EVIL SOUL AND THE TEN PLAGUES

The ten plagues inflicted upon Pharaoh and his people are symbols of the effects of sin on the soul.

But now if we are also to discuss the moral nature, we will say that any soul in this world, while it lives in errors and ignorance of the truth is in Egypt.

1. If the Law of God begins to approach this soul it turns the waters into blood for it, that is, it changes the fluid and slippery life of youth to the blood of the Old or New Testament.

2. Then it draws out of the soul the vain and empty talkativeness and complaining against the providence of God which is like the noise of frogs.

3. It also purifies its evil thoughts and scatters the stinging mosquitoes which have the power of craftiness to sting.

4. It also removes the bites of the passions which are like the stings of the fly and destroys the foolishness and brutish understanding in the soul, by which "Man when he was in honor, did not understand, but has been compared to stupid beasts, and make like to them" (Ps. 48:21).

5. And in respect to the sores on the cattle, the Law censured the soul's swelling arrogance and extinguished the mark of madness in it.

6. After this, moreover, it employs the sounds of "the sons of thunder" (Cf. Mark 3:17), that is the teachings of the Gospels and apostles.

7. But it also attends to the chastening of hail, that is it might restrain the luxury of pleasure. At the same time it also employs the fire of penance, that the souls also might say: "Was not our heart burning within us?" (Luke 24:32)

8. Nor does the Law of God take away the example of the locusts from the soul by which all its restless and disturbed motions are devoured and eaten up, whereby it too learns what the Apostle teaches: "That all its activities be according to order."(Cf. 1 Cor 14.40.)

9. But when the soul has been sufficiently restrained for morals and constrained to make its life more faultless, when it has perceived the author of the blows and has now begun to confess that "it is the finger of God"(Cf. Exod. 8.19.) and it has acquired some understanding, then especially the soul sees the darkness of its own conduct, then it perceives the gloom of its own errors.

10. And when the soul has reached this point, then it will deserve that the firstborn of the Egyptians in it be destroyed.

ESCAPE FROM EVIL

Origen asks us to escape from sin as Joseph did with his mistress.

But if we have the disposition of continence, even if have we an Egyptian mistress love us deeply, we become birds and, leaving the Egyptian garments in her hands, will fly away from the indecent snare.

In his Commentary on Psalms, Origen held that the soul must endeavor, not to isolate itself from sin, but to destroy sin utterly. We must study the tactics of spiritual science in the school of Christ if we would annihilate sin and crush within our hearts the carnal temper and the passions which cling to the soul, no matter how wholesome their activities may seem to be. The choice is between sacrificing oneself and becoming as nothing: there is no other alternative.

For He does not wish us to sin further after recognition of Himself, after the illumination of the divine word, after the grace of baptism, after the confession of faith and after the marriage has been confirmed with such great sacraments.

He does not permit the soul whose Bridegroom or Husband He Himself is called to play with demons, to fornicate with unclean spirits, to wallow in vices and impurities. But even if this sometimes unfortunately should happen, He wishes, at least, that the soul be converted and return and repent.

Goats' hair is also offered (Exod. 35). This kind of animal is ordered in the Law to be offered for sin. Hair is a dead, bloodless, soulless form. He who offers this animal shows that the disposition to sin is already dead in himself, nor does sin further live or rule in his members.

The skins of rams are also offered. Some before us suggested that the ram represents madness. And because a skin is an indication of a dead animal, he who offers the skins of rams to the Lord shows that madness is dead in himself.

With regard to the fact that he is ordered "to shave off all his hair" (Cf. Lev. 14:9), I think that each work of death placed in the soul which originated in sins is ordered to be cast away - for now they are called the hairs. For its preferable for the sinner to set right everything that is born in him either in counsel or in word or in deed if he truly wants to be cleansed, to remove it and cast it off and not allow anything to remain. But the saint ought to preserve every hair, and if it is possible, " a razor" ought not "pass over his head" that he be not able to cut off anything from his wise thoughts either in words or deeds. Whence, of course, it is that " a razor" is said "not to have passed over the head" of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11); but also from all the Nazarites (Cf. Num. 6:5), who are the just because of the just it has been written, "whatever he does will prosper, and his leaves will not fall" (Cf. Ps. 1:3). Whence also, "the hairs of the head" of the Lord's disciples also are said "to be numbered" (Cf. Matt. 10:30), that is, all their acts, al their words, all their thoughts are kept before the Lord because they are just, because they are holy. But every work, every word, every thought of sinners ought to be cut off. And this is what is meant: "That every hair of his body is shaved off and then he will be clean" (Cf. Lev. 14:9).

And as the seed of God, which abides in him who is born of God, makes it impossible for him who is formed according to the Only-Begotten Word (Gal. 4:19) to sin, so in every man that commits sin the seed of the devil is present, and as long as it remains in his soul, it makes it impossible for the soul so afflicted to reform. But since for this purpose the son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)), it is possible through the indwelling of the Word of God in our soul to destroy the works of the devil, to root out the evil seed placed in us, and to become children of God.

"They sank in the depth like a stone," (Exod. 15.5.) Why "did they sink in the depth like a stone?" Because they were not the kind of "stones from which sons of Abraham could be raised up," (Cf. Matt. 3.9.) but the kind which love the depth and desire the liquid element, that is, who seize the bitter and fluid desire of present things. Whence it is said of these: "They sank like lead in very deep water." (Exod. 15.10.) They are serious sinners. For iniquity also is shown "to sit upon a talent of lead," as Zachariah the prophet says: "I saw a woman sitting upon a talent of lead, and I said, `Who is this'? And he answered, `Iniquity,'" (Cf. Zech 5.7.) Hence it is, therefore, that the unjust "sank in the depth, like lead in very deep water." (Cf. Exod. 15.5,10.)

The saints, however, do not sink, but walk upon the waters, because they are light and are not weighed down with the weight of sin. Indeed our Lord and Savior "walked upon the waters,"(Cf. Matt. 14.25.) for it is he who truly did not know sin.(Cf. 2 Cor 5.21.) His disciple Peter also "walked," although he was somewhat anxious,(Cf. Matt. 14.29-30.) for he was not so great and of the same quality as the one who has no lead at all mixed in himself. He had some, though very little.

But hear what the prophet says, "You have been sold for your sins and for your iniquities I sent your mother away."(Is 50.1.) You see, therefore, that we are all creatures of God. But each one is sold for his own sins and, for his iniquities, parts from his own Creator. We, therefore, belong to God in so far as we have been created by him. But we have become slaves of the devil in so far as we have been sold for our sins. Christ came, however, and "bought us back"(Cf. Gal 3.13.) when we were serving that lord to whom we sold ourselves by sinning. And so he appears to have recovered as his own those whom he created; to have acquired as people belonging to another indeed those who had sought another lord for themselves by sinning.

Sin deprives the soul from the presence of Christ

"The soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4) Therefore, Christ does not come upon this dead soul because He is "Wisdom" (1 Cor. 1:24) and wisdom does not enter into a malevolent soul. For this one is dead because sin is in it, malice is in it. "For when sin was completed, it begot death" (Jas. 1:8). And for this reason, Jesus "does not enter a dead soul." But if the soul is living, that is, if it does not have a mortal sin in it, then Christ, who is "Life" (John 11:25), comes to the living soul; because just as "light cannot exist with darkness nor justice with iniquity" (2 Cor. 6:14), so life cannot exist with death. And therefore, if anyone is aware that he has a mortal sin within himself and does not reject it by repentance of a most full reparation, he shall not hope that Christ "will enter" his "soul," because he is "the great priest" who "does not enter into any dead soul" (Lev. 21:10)"

If a spirit of wrath or envy or pride or impurity should enter your soul and you receive it, if you should assent when it speaks in your heart, if you should take pleasure in these things which it suggests to you according to its mind, then you have prostituted yourself with it.

CUTTING SIN AT ITS BEGINNING

Suppose a feeling of anger arises in my heart. This feeling will not be changed into a deed if I am afraid of the future punishment. This is not enough, but according to the Scripture (Josh 11:1) I have to do my best that I will not leave any movement of anger in me.

If the soul is in trouble even if the thought had not become a deed, this trouble itself is not fit with the soldier of Christ . The soldiers of Joshua must believe in a way that does not leave anything to embitter their hearts. If anything is left, just as a custom or even an evil thought, this can grow up through time, increase, strengthen and at last guides us to return to our own vote (Prov. 26:11), and thus the last stale becomes worse than the first (Luke 11:26. this is what the prophetic psalm means, "Blessed" shall he be who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock "Ps. 137:9. Here he means by " the little ones" the evil thoughts. . . . . , if we feel that these thoughts are little and in the beginning we must seize them, cut them and dash them against the rock, i. e. against Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). We must kill them according to the Lord’s commandment, and not leave a breath of them in us.

 

ADULTERY

The priest who has power to offer sacrifice for certain voluntary and involuntary transgressions does not offer a holocaust (cf. Lev. 7:37; Ps. 39:7 etc.) for sin in the case of adultery, deliberate murder, and other serious sins. In the same way the apostles also and their successors, priests according to the great High Priest, having received the science of divine therapy, know from their instruction by the Holy Spirit for what sins, when, and how they must offer sacrifice.

 

PRIDE

Pride is the principal sin of Satan..

DRUNKENNESS

Drunkenness of wine is destructive in all things, for it is the only thing which weakens the soul along with the body...

But in the illness of drunkenness the body and the soul are destroyed at the same time; the spirit is corrupted equally with the flesh.

Drunkenness deceives him whom Sodom did not deceive. He whom the sulfurous flame did not burn is burned by the flames of women.

LIE

If the truth is the gird of the soldiers of Christ (Eph. 6:14), then every time we lie... we take off the gird of the soldiers of Christ. If we deal falsely, we become in lack of armor!

ANGER

Origen states that anger is the cause of the fall of Satan. If we don't overcome anger we will not receive the peace of angels as our inheritance.

The same thing applies to other vices, such as pride, envy, selfishness and impurity. These vices have their own harmful angels who incite us to do evil. If we don't overcome them, purifying our hearts from them, the hearts which have been purified already by baptism can’t receive the promised inheritance.

Anger inebriates the soul, but rage makes it more than drunk, if indeed anything can surpass drunkenness. Cupidity and avarice make a person not only drunk, but enraged.

 

 

ENVY

Envy and spite weaken it more than any drunkenness. One cannot enumerate how many things there are that afflict the unfortunate soul by the vice of drunkenness.

 

WICKED WORDS

The mouths of such as bring forth words of death and destruction are called sepulchers, as also are all that speak against the true faith or make any opposition to the discipline of chastity, justice, and sobriety.

We must struggle with all our strength to free ourselves from the preoccupations of the world and from mundane activities, and even, if it is possible, leave behind us the useless talk of our companions, and devote ourselves to God's word and "meditate on His law day and night" (Ps. 1:2), so that our conversion might be wholehearted and we might be able to look upon Moses' unveiled face.

 


 

Penance and Confession

 

PENANCE AND THE HOLY TRINITY

The course of this purification, that is, conversion from sin, is divided into three parts. First is the offering by which sins are observed; second is that by which the soul is turned to God; the third is that of the fruitfulness and fruits which the one who is converted shows in works of piety. And because there are these three offerings, for that reason, it adds also that he must take "three tithe measures of fine wheat flour" (Cf. Lev. 14:10) that everywhere we may understand that purification cannot happen without the mystery of the Trinity.

MODERATE WAY OF PENANCE

Origen believes in the practice of penance to a moderate extent, for "excess and lack of measure in abstinence are dangerous to beginners."

 

 

UNCEASING REPENTANCE

Origen states that believers are in need of unceasing repentance all their life.

Therefore the day of atonement remains for us until the sun sets; (Cf. Lev 11.25) that is, until the world comes to an end. For let us stand "before the gates" (Cf. Jas. 5.9) waiting for our high priest who remains within "the Holy of Holies," that is, "before the Father" (Cf. 1 John 2.1-2); and who intercedes not for the sins of everyone, but "for the sins" of those "who wait for him" (Cf. Heb 9.28) .

First is the one by which we are baptized "for the remission of sins" (Cf. Mark 1:4).

A second remission is in the suffering of martyrdom.

Third, is that which is given through alms for the Savior says, "but nevertheless, give what you have and, behold, all things are clean for you" (Luke 11:41).

A fourth remission of sins is given for us through the fact that we also forgive the sins of our brothers. For thus the Lord and Savior himself says, "If you will forgive from the heart your brothers' sins, your Father will also forgive you your sins. But if you will not forgive your brothers from the heart, neither will your Father forgive you" (Matt. 6:14-15). And thus he taught us to say in prayer, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12).

A fifth forgiveness of sins is when "someone will convert a sinner from the error of his way." For thus the divine Scripture says, "Whoever will make a sinner turn from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (Jam 5:20).

There is also a sixth forgiveness through the abundance of love as the Lord himself says, "Truly I say to you, her many sins are forgiven because she loved much" (Luke 7:47). And the Apostle says, "Because love will cover a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4:8).

And there is still a seventh remission of sins through penance, although admittedly it is difficult and toilsome, when the sinner washes "his couch in tears" (Cf. Ps. 6:7) and his "tears" become his "bread day and night" (Cf. Ps. 41:4) when he is not ashamed to make known his sin to the priest of the Lord and to seek a cure according to the one who says, "I said, 'I will proclaim to the Lord my injustice against myself,' and you forgave the impiety of my heart" (Ps. 31:5).

 

REPEATED PENANCE

Origen insists that penance for some serious sins cannot be repeated.

There is always an opportunity for recovery where, for example, some mortal guilt (culpa mortalis) has found us out, one which does not consist in a mortal crime (crimen mortale), as blasphemy of the faith, which is surrounded by the wall of ecclesiastical and apostolic dogma, but either in some vice of speech or habit... Such guilt can always be repaired, nor is penance ever denied for sins such as these. In more grievous sins, only one opportunity for penance is granted. But the common sins, however, which we frequently incur,-these always allow of penance and at all times are redeemed.

 

CONFESSION

Origen reasons that the two sanctuaries found in the Tent of Witness are to be interpreted according to a mystical understanding. According to this understanding, the first sanctuary represents the Church. The second is the heavenly sanctuary where Christ continues to serve as High Priest.

See what holy Scripture teaches us, that it is not right to bury sin in our hearts.... But if a man become his own accuser, in accusing himself and confessing he vomits out his sin, and dissipates the whole cause of his sickness.

But observe carefully to whom you confess your sins; put the physician to the test, in order to know whether he is weak with the weak, and a mourner with those that mourn. Should he consider your disease to be of such a nature that it must be made known to, and cured in the presence of the assembled congregation, follow the advice of the experienced physician.

The Israelite, if he should happen to fall into sin, that is, a layman, cannot remit his own sin; but he needs a levite, a priest, indeed he seeks out someone who holds an even more eminent position: it is the prerogative of the bishop, that he should receive remission of his sins.

If we do this, and reveal our sins not only to God, but also to those who can heal our wounds and sins, our sins will be wiped away by Him, who says: "I have blotted out your iniquities as a cloud, and your sins as a mist."

CONFESSION OF SECRET SINS

Even when the sin is secret ought one to enter into penance, such as is customarily imposed on sinners. He says in the fourteenth homily on Leviticus: "Wherefore now if anyone of us is conscious of a grievous sin, let him fly to penance and voluntarily take upon himself the destruction of the flesh."

 

 

PUBLIC CONFESSION

In earlier years confession was made publicly, and Ambrose recommends that it be made before the people, but he also permitted a private confession. Origen also allowed the penitent to confess privately to the pastor, "to declare his sin to a priest of the Lord and to ask for the cure," St. Augustine recommends that confession "be made to the bishop."

This public procedure was participated in by the whole community. It was a solemn function, and all took part in it. In his Homily on Psalm 37, he says that he who has sinned must suffer much when he converts to penance and to the amending of his life; and he must remember that his friends and neighbors will leave him. But if he is sincere he will not mind the shame before his friends. The shaming of the penitent before the congregation was considered not only necessary but even advantageous, in that it worked conversion and complete repentance. Origen calls on sinners to come out into the open and confess their sins: "if therefore there is some one so faithful that he is conscious of some sin, let him go out into the middle and let him become his own accuser."

Such a person disregards human respect and confesses his sin, even before the assembled congregation.

A study of Origin’s words will show that all grievous sins had to be submitted to the public penance. In one of his homilies on the Psalms he seems to indicate just that, when he says:

There is something marvelous in this mystery when it commands "to confess sin." And indeed, everything we do of any kind is to be proclaimed and brought out in public. If "we do anything in secret" (Cf. John 7:4), also if we commit anything secretly either in a single word or even an inward thought, this is necessary for everything to be revealed, for everything to be confessed. Indeed, it is to be confessed by that one who is the accuser and inciter of sin. For now this one urges us to sin and also accuses us when we do sin. If, therefore, in this life we anticipate him and are ourselves our own accusers, we escape the wickedness of the devil, our enemy and accuser. For elsewhere, the prophet also speaks thus: "first tell your injustices in order that you may be justified" (Isa. 43:26). Does he not evidently show the mystery which we are dealing with when it says, "you speak first" to show you that you ought to anticipate him who was prepared to accuse you?

He who for his sins makes confession to God, and in Spirit he is sorry while he does penance, knowing what punishment awaits the sinner after death says these things, explaining how much a man must suffer when he turns to penance and improvement of life, how his friends and neighbors desert him and stand away from him because he turns to exomologesis and sorrow for his sin... If therefore such a man, mindful of his sin, confesses the sins he committed and with human confusion he little regards those who abuse him while he confesses... and sneer at him; he however realizes that in this way he will receive pardon... so that he refuses to hide and conceal his stain, but he pronounces his sin; nor does he desire to be a whited sepulcher, which without appears beautiful to men, that is, that he might appear just to such as behold him, but within is full of every uncleanness and of dead men’s bones. If therefore there is someone so faithful that if he is conscious of some sin, let him come forth before the congregation and let him be his own accuser.

Elsewhere Origen speaks of public confession. He says:

Consider then a man who is faithful but sick, who could be overcome by some sin, and because of this lamenting for his iniquities, and seeking however a cure and to recover his health. If therefore such a man, conscious of his iniquity, confesses whatever he has committed... disregards those who abuse him... so that he refuses to hide and conceal his stains, but he confesses his sin, that he might not be a whited sepulcher, which without appears beautiful to men... within however he is full of every uncleanness and dead men’s bones. If therefore there is someone so faithful that if he is conscious of a sin, let him come out before the community and let him be his own accuser.

Further in the same homily Origen seems to demand public confession. He says:

Consider therefore what Sacred Scripture teaches us, that we must not conceal our sins in our heart. For as they who are troubled with indigestion and have something within them which lies heavy upon their stomachs, are not relieved unless it be removed; in like manner sinners, who conceal their practices and retain their sin within their hearts, feel in themselves an inward disquietude and are almost suffocated with the malignity which they thus suppress. But if he will only become his own accuser, while he accuses himself and confesses, he at the same time discharges himself of his iniquity and digests the whole cause of his disease... If he shall judge your disease to be such as should be laid open and cured before the whole assembly of the Church, for the possible edification of others and for your own ready healing, this should be done deliberately and discreetly.

There is in the works of Origen another allusion to public confession. In one of his homilies on Jeremiah he says:

Consider therefore how candid the prophets are: they do not conceal their sins, as we do, but openly they proclaim their sins, not only to the men of their age, but to all generations. Indeed even I do not dare here to confess my sins before a few, because they who hear me would condemn me. But Jeremiah, when he had transgressed, is not ashamed, but rather puts his sin down in his writings.

EXOMOLOGESIS

In one of his earlier works on the Psalms he says in his Commentary on Psalm 135, that "exomologesis signifies a thanksgiving and glorification. But it is also used for the confession of sins, as in this place ."

The word exomologesis has a threefold meaning.

The first is a confession of sin to God alone.

The second is an avowal of one’s sins before men, in order to receive divine pardon.

The third is the exomologesis of the public and solemn penance as imposed on sinners by the Church. This is the type Origen refers to so often when he says that "chains are also the bonds of sins: which bonds are broken not only by divine baptism, but also by martyrdom suffered for Christ and through the tears of penance." He mentions the "severest penance," and describes how the soul is converted to peace, "either through baptism, or through tears and penance."

 

 

 

BAPTISM and Forgiveness of Sins

Origen stresses on different accessions that strictly speaking there is only one forgiveness of sins, that of baptism (Mark 1:4), because the Christian religion gives the power and grace to overcome sinful passion. However, there are a number of means to obtain remission even of sins committed after baptism. Origen lists seven of them: martyrdom, almsgiving (Luke 11:41), forgiving those who trespass against us (Matt. 6:14-15), conversion of a sinner (according to Jam. 5:20), fullness of love (according to Luke 7,47) and finally through penance and by a confession of sins before a priest. The latter decides whether the sins should be confessed in public or not.

That the thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed..." Luke 2:35.

There were evil thoughts in men, and they were revealed for this reason, that being brought to the surface they might be destroyed, slain, put to death, and He Who died for us might kill them. For while these thoughts were hidden and not brought into the open they could not be utterly done to death. Hence, if we have sinned we also ought to say," I have made my sin known to You, and I have not hidden my wickedness. I have said I will declare my unrighteousness to the Lord against myself" (Ps. 32:5). For if we do this and reveal our sins \not only to God but also to those who can heal our wounds and sins, our wickedness will be wiped out by Him who says, "I will wipe out your wickedness like a cloud," Isa. 44:2..

Certainly, the Christian should be under strict discipline (more than those men of the Old Testament times), because Christ died for him... Now listed to all the ways of remission of sins in the Gospels:

First, we are baptized for the remission of sins.

Second, there is the remission in the suffering of martyrdom.

Third, the remission given in return for works of mercy (Luke 11:44).

Fourth, the forgiveness through out forgiveness of others, (Matt. 5:14, 15)...

Fifth, the forgiveness bestowed when a man "has converted a sinner from the error of his ways," James 5:20.

Sixth, sins are remitted through abundance of love (Luke 7:4).

In addition, there is also a seventh way of forgiveness which is hard and painful, namely the remission of sins through penitence when "the sinner washes his bed with tears, and tears are his bread by day and night," Ps. 6:6, 42:3; and when he does not hold back in shame from declaring his sin to the priest of the Lord and asking for medicine (James 5:14)....

 


 

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF BELIEVERS

 

1. PARTICIPATING IN THE DIVINE NATURE

Origen takes the petition of the Lord’s Prayer for daily bread to mean that those who were nourished by God the Logos would thereby be made divine. In many other places, too, he defined salvation as the attainment of the gift of divinity. Identification with Christ would lift the believer through the human nature of Christ to union with his divine nature and thus with God and thus to deification.

It is evident, therefore, that the angels to whom the Most High entrusted the nations to be ruled are called either gods or lords; gods as if given by God and lords as those who have been allotted power from the Lord. Whence also the Lord said to the angels who did not preserve their preeminence: "I said, `You are gods and are all sons of the Most High. But you shall die like men and shall fall like one of the princes'" (Ps. 81:5-7), imitating, of course, the devil who became the leader of all to ruin. Whence it is evident that violation of duty, not nature, made those accursed. You, therefore, O people of Israel, who are "the portion of God," who were made "the lot of his inheritance" (Cf. Deut. 32:9), "shall not have," the text says, "other gods besides me" (Exod. 20:3), because God is truly "one God" and the Lord is truly "one Lord." But on the others who have been created by him he bestowed that name not by nature but by grace.

 

2. A BELIEVER ESTABLISHES AN INNER TABERNACLE FOR GOD

A believer contributes in the Lord’s spiritual tabernacle, by divine grace.

Let what has been said about the tabernacle suffice for the present, being all we have been able to discover cursorily and direct to the ears of our hearers, that each of us also might be zealous to make a tabernacle for God within himself. For it was not said in vain that the fathers dwelt in tabernacles.

I understand that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelt in tabernacles as follows. For those men who adorned themselves a tabernacle for God.

For the royal purple was notably resplendent among them, because of which the sons of Heth said to Abraham: "You are a king from God among us" (Gen. 23:6).

The scarlet also shone, for Abraham held his right hand disposed to slay his only son for God.

The blue shone when he always looked to heaven and followed the Lord of heaven. But he was also likewise adorned with the other things.

I also thus understand the feast of the tabernacles which the Law commands, that the people might go out a certain day of the year and dwell in the tabernacles made of palm branches and the foliage of the willow and poplar and the branches of leafy trees. The palm is a sign of victory in that war which the flesh and spirit wage between themselves: but the poplar and the willow tree are branches of purity as much in virtue as in name. If you preserve these things entire, you can have the branches of the bushy and leafy tree which is the eternal and blessed life when "the Lord places" you "in that green place upon the water of refreshment" (Cf. Ps. 22:2, 1:3), through Christ Jesus our Lord, "to whom belongs glory and the sovereignty forever and ever. Amen" (Cf. 1 Pet. 4:11).

 

3. FEELING THE PRESENCE OF GOD

A believer continuously has the feeling of the presence of God.

And Aaron came," the text says, "and all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law in the presence of God" (Exod. 18:12). but those who are "elders," those who are older, who are perfect and approved in merits, eat bread "in the presence of God"; they are the ones who observe what the Apostle says, "Whether you eat or drink or whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). Everything, therefore, which the saints do, they do "in the presence of God." The sinner flees from the presence of God. For it has been written that Adam, after he sinned, fled "from the presence of God." When he was asked about it he answered, "I heard your voice and I hid myself because I was naked" (Cf. Gen. 3:10). But Cain also, after he had been condemned by God for parricide, "went out," the Scripture says, "from the face of God and dwelt in the land of Nain" (Gen. 4:16). He, therefore, who was unworthy of the presence of God "went out from the face of God." The saints, however, both eat and drink "in the presence of God" and do everything they do "in the presence of God." In discussing the present passage, I see, even further, that those who receive a fuller knowledge of God and are imbued more fully with the divine disciplines, even if they do evil, do it before God and in his presence just as a man who said: "To you only have I sinned and have done evil before you" (Ps. 50:6). What advantage, then, does he have who does evil before God? That he immediately repents and says, "I have sinned." He, however, who departs from the presence of God does not know how to be converted and to purge his sin by repenting. This, then, is the difference between doing evil before God and to have departed from the presence of God when you sin.

But further the disciples who are always with Jesus are not sent away by Him; but the multitudes after they have eaten are sent away. Likewise, again, the disciples who conceive nothing great about the Canaanitish woman say, "Send her away, for she cries after us" (John 6:13); but the Savior does not at all appear to send her away; for saying unto her, "O woman, great is your faith, be it done to you even as you wilt," (Matt. 14:14) He healed her daughter from that hour: it is not however written that He sent her away. So far at the present time have we been able to investigate and see into the passage before us.

 

4. BELIEVERS ARE THE LORD’S LOT

Believers acknowledge that that they are the Lord’s lot.

But do you still want to see another form of the two lots (Lev. 16:8)? Consider those two "robbers" who at the time of his crucifixion "were suspended one at his right hand and one at his left." (Cf. Luke 23.33.) See that the one who confessed the Lord was made "a lot of the Lord" and was taken without delay "to paradise." But the other one who "reviled" him (Cf. Luke 23.39-43.) was made " the lot of the scapegoat" that was sent "into the wilderness" of Hell.

The Levites did not receive an inheritance from Moses nor from Joshua, for the Lord, God of Israel, is their inheritance. . . .

Many of the people of God have the simple faith in God’s fear, they please God with their good deeds and genuine customs, Very little and rare are those who are gifted with wisdom and knowledge, and keep their hearts pure, and plant in their souls the most beautiful virtues, and their knowledge has the power to enlighten the way to others. . . . . These without doubt is said- that they are Levites and priests, their lot is the Lord, who is the wisdom which they chose above everything.

 

5. A BELIEVER HAS A KIND OF SPIRITUAL PARENTHOOD

A believer has a kind of spiritual parenthood, or in other way he always brings forth new members of the Church through his love and witnessing to Christ.

The soul which has just conceived the Word of God is said to be a woman with child. We read about such a conception also in another passage: "From your fear, Lord, we conceive in the womb and gave birth" (Cf. Isa. 26:17-18).

Those, therefore, who conceive and immediately give birth are not to be considered women, but men, and perfect men. For hear also the prophet saying, "Was the earth brought forth in one day, and the nation born at once?" (Cf. Isa. 66:8) That is the generation of perfect men which is born immediately on the day that it was conceived.

But lest it appear strange to you that we said men give birth, we have set forth already earlier how you ought to understand the names of the members, that you might abandon the corporeal significations and take the meaning of the inner man. But if you wish to have further satisfaction from the Scriptures on this, hear the Apostle saying, "My little children of whom I am in labor again until Christ be formed in you" (Gal. 4:19). They, therefore, are perfect men and strong who immediately when they conceive give birth, that is, who bring forth into works the word of faith which has been conceived.

The soul, however, which has conceived and retains the word in the womb and does not give birth is called woman, as also the prophets says, "The pains of birth have come upon her and she does not have the strength to give birth" (Cf. Isa. 37:3). This soul, therefore, which is now called a woman because of its weakness, is stricken and made to stumble by two men quarreling between themselves and bringing forth stumbling blocks in the strife - which is customary in verbal dispute - so that it cast out and loses the word of faith which it had slightly conceived. This is a quarrel and contention "to the subversion of the hearers." If, therefore, the soul which has been made to stumble cast off the word yet unformed, he who made it stumble is said to suffer loss.

6. PARTICIPATION IN THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST

A believer participates in the crucifixion of his Christ, by being despised by others. Origen states that in the Old Testament sacrifice was offered at the door of the tabernacle (Lev. 1:3) and not inside the door but outside the door.

"At the door of the tabernacle" (Lev. 1:3) is not inside the door but outside the door. For Jesus was outside the door, "for he came to his own and his own did not receive him" (John 1:11) Therefore, he did not enter into that tabernacle to which he had come but " at the door of it" he was offered for a whole burnt offering, since he suffered "outside the camp" (Lev. 4:12). For also those evil "husbandmen cast out the son form the father's vineyard and killed him when he came" (Matt. 27:1; John 18:13f.). This, therefore, is what is offered "at the door of the tabernacle, acceptable before the Lord" (Lev. 1:3). And what is as "acceptable" as the sacrifice of Christ "who offered himself to God?" (Heb. 9:14).

Therefore, he who zealously imitates the prophetic life, and attains to the spirit which was in them, must be dishonored in the world, and in the eyes of sinners, to whom the life of the righteous man is a burden.

7. BELIEVERS ARE KINGS AND PRINCES

This prince can be seen as the power of reason which is within us. If this [reason] sins in us and we do something foolish, then we must be fearful of that statement of the Savior which says, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its taste, it is of value for nothing except to be thrown out and walked on by men" (Matt. 5:13). Therefore the prince also has his offering.

But if there are some who have come out of Egypt and, following the pillar of fire and cloud, are entering the wilderness, then He comes down from heaven to them and offers them a small, thin Food, like to the food of angels; so that man eats the bread of angels.

For, if the heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of souls, and the angels equally are called heavenly, there will be no inconsistency in her calling these who like herself are heavenly, her mother's sons. It will, on the contrary, seem supremely apt and fitting that those for whom God is the one Father should have Jerusalem for their one mother.

 

8. BELIEVERS BECOME EQUAL TO ANGELS

When we are somewhat more advanced, we shall be equal to the angels. (Matt. 22:30) .

 

9. ORTHODOXY IN KNOWLEDGE AND LIFE

The true believer has pure and straight doctrines or knowledge and life.

But you who want to be pure, hold your life in conformity and harmony with knowledge, and your deeds with understanding, that you may be pure in each, that "you apply the cud" and "divide the hoof" (Lev. 11) but also that "you may produce" or "you may cast away" the hoofs.

But our earth, that is, our heart, receives blessings if it receives "the rain" of the doctrine of the Law "which frequently comes upon it" and brings forth the fruit of works. But if it does not have spiritual work, but "thorns and thistles, " that is, cares of the world or the desires of pleasures and riches," it is false and near to the curse, whose end will be burning." For that reason, each one of the hearers when he assembles to hear, receives " the shower " of the word of God; and if he indeed brings forth the fruit of a good work, he will obtain "a blessing." But if he disdains the received word of God and frequently neglects to hear it and to subject himself to the care and passion of secular affairs, then one who would suffocate the word "with thorns" he will procure "a curse" for a blessing and find instead of the blessing "an end in burning."

 

10. WITNESSING TO CHRIST

A believer witnesses to Jesus Christ not only by his words, but also by his life.

But nevertheless, this leprous one is ordered only to cover his "mouth" (Lev. 13:45).

Why is it that he is instructed to have all parts of his body naked and is ordered only to cover his mouth?

Is it not also evident that the word is closed to him who is in the leprosy of sin; that "the mouth" is closed to him that he may be excluded from the assurance of the word and the authority of the teaching?

For "God said to the sinner, ‘Why do you expound my justices and take my covenant in your mouth?’ (Ps. 49:16) Therefore, let the sinner have a closed "mouth" because he who does not teach himself, cannot teach another; and for this reason he is commanded to cover his "mouth," who by doing evil lost the freedom of speaking.

 

11. BELIEVERS ARE ROCKS

Believers, especially the apostles and disciples, are rocks.

For a rock (or a Peter) is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them (1 Cor. 10:4), and upon every such rock is built every word of the church, and the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God.

But if you suppose that upon that one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, "The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it," (Matt. 16:18) hold in regard to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying, "Upon this rock I will build My church" (Matt. 16:18)? Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and will no other of the blessed receive them? But if this promise, "I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of the heaven" (Matt. 16:19), be common to the others, how shall not all the things previously spoken of, and the things which are subjoined as having been addressed to Peter, be common to them?

 

12. BELIEVERS ATTAIN THE TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST.

For when he has passed through the six days, as we have said, he will keep a new Sabbath, rejoicing in the lofty mountain, because he sees Jesus transfigured before him; for the Word had different forms, as He appears to each as is expedient for the beholder, and is manifested to no one beyond the capacity of the beholder.

But when He is transfigured, His face also shines as the sun, that He may be manifested to the children of light, who have put off the works of the darkness, and put on the armor of light (Rom. 13:12), and are no longer the children of darkness or night, but have become the sons of day, and walk honestly as in the day (Rom. 13:13); and being manifested, he will shine unto them not simply as the sun, but as demonstrated to be the sun of righteousness.

 

13. FULL OF STRENGTH

The true believer never has the weakness of the elders, but always full. of strength

a. The saint has power in every moment of his life, even when he becomes very old (Jos. 14:11).

b. Believers live in the spiritual heights.

The king of Jericho hated the two spies and planed for their killing, but he could not fulfill his plan for they went to the mountain (Josh. 2:22).

The prince of this world (John 12:31) persuade the spies of Jesus, and he would get rid of them, but he could not put his hands on them, for they went to the mountain, and asked for the highest of the hills and tops of the mountains....

The prince of this world can't go to these places, nor reach Jesus who is on the highest.....

He likes those who fall down in the depth, for there he can reign over them, and there he establishes his dwelling place, and from there , he descends to the hell.

The saint does not ask for what is low in the bottom of the valleys, but he asks for a high mountain, a mountain on which there are great and fortified cities. The book in truth says, "the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified" Jos. 14:12.

They (Mary and Joseph) did not acknowledge the meaning of Jesus ‘Words, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business ( house). , i. e. , to be in the Temple. . . . .

The highest are the houses of Jesus. As Joseph and Mary had not yet arrived to the perfect faith they could not soar in the highest, therefore it is said, "He went down with them" (Luke 2:51). Many times Jesus goes down with His disciples and does not remain always on the mountain.

Mary became worthy to be called the Theotokos, therefore she should ascend the mountains and remain in the lights (Luke 1:39).

c. The believer is so very strong in Jesus Christ, that he would tread upon the serpent.

Origen comments on the words, "And they struck them down, so that they let none of them remain or escape" (Jos. 8:22) saying: "We must not leave any demon alive, but we have to kill them all till the end." Here he speaks of sins as if they are demons.

Let us then pray that our souls become strong and good, and have the power to tread upon the necks of our enemies and bruise all the heads of the serpent so that it cannot bruise our heel.

May the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, grant me the grace of crushing the spirit of evil, the tendency of anger, violence, and the demons of greed and pride.

 


SPIRITUAL SACRIFICE

AND CULT

 

Sacrifice in the writings of Origin

Origen mentions sacrifice so frequently that Harnack calls him "the great theologian of sacrifice." Continuing the openness of Clement, Origen has a basically positive attitude toward Old Testament sacrifice which he repeatedly uses as the basis for spiritual or allegorical interpretations.

Of the roughly 550 passages in Origen which speak of sacrifice or related subjects, about 340 occur in the Latin translations, some 20 in the unreliable Greek fragments of the Commentary on the Psalms, and about 190 in well-attested Greek texts. Fortunately, these Greek texts alone are sufficient to demonstrate the major aspects of Origen's thought on sacrifice. The most important sources are, from the Greek: Commentary on Matthew, Exhortation to Martyrdom, Against Celsus, and. above all, the Commentary on John; and from the Latin: the homilies, particularly Rufinus' translation of the Homilies on Leviticus.

 

 

SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES AND CULTS

Origen had certain arguments for spiritualizing sacrifice.

1. Origen states that God should be worshipped not with blood and carnal sacrifices but in Spirit. The Supreme God should be worshipped by means of piety and every virtue, by spiritual sacrifices.

2. Origen argues from the fall of the Temple within a few years of the crucifixion.

3. He also argues from the word of Scripture, in this case the Epistle to the Hebrews, that literal sacrifices were meant to cease and be replaced by the realities which they symbolized. He says, "If anyone reads the whole of the Epistle to the Hebrews... he will find how the whole of this part of the Apostle's writing in the Law are types and forms of things that are living and true."

 

 

1. CHRIST’S SELF-SACRIFICE

Jesus Christ, the High Priest and Victim at the same time, is the true Paschal Lamb who is led to the slaughter, who takes away the sins of the world, who by His own blood reconciles us to the Father. He emptied Himself, bearing our infirmities and chastisements out of His own love for us and in obedience to the Father. He is perfect and unique in sacrificing Himself willingly to the Father and realizing the will of the Father which is one with His will.

 

 

2. BELIEVER’S SELF-SACRIFICE

Origen's main concern seems to be to teach how the Church and her members share in the sacrifice of Christ. For the true Jerusalem, he explains, is the Church, built of living stones (cf. 1 Pet 2:5), where there is a holy priesthood and where spiritual sacrifices are offered to God by those who are spiritual and who have come to the knowledge of the law of the spirit.

Origen states that every true believer must offer a self-sacrifice. He is his own burnt sacrifice, if he renounces his possessions, takes up his cross and follows our Lord Jesus Christ, having charity, by loving his brethren, and fighting for justice and truth, even unto death; by dying to all desire of the flesh, as the world is crucified to him, and he to the world, and fulfilling martyrdom.

In the Homilies on Leviticus, Origen allegorizes the sacrifices "Pro Peccato" in terms of the sacrifice of Christ, and the sacrifices "Pro munere" as the offering of Christians: The gift-sacrifices of worship and thanksgiving are still to be offered by Christians, even though sacrifices for sin have been perfected and annulled by the offering of Christ.

Origen stresses the need for unceasing sacrifice by repeatedly referring to or expanding on Ps 44:22: "For your sake we are slain all the day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter". Origen sees the whole of Christian life in terms of sacrifice.

 

 

MARTYRDOM AND PURITY AS THE BEST SACRIFICES

The best sacrifice for the Christian that pleases God is martyrdom. A martyr is considered as if he offers his body to be burned for the sake of Christ.

As with most early Christian writers, martyrdom is the most perfect way to unite oneself to Christ and His sacrifice. The following sequence of ideas (from the Commentary on John 6:54) is typical of Origen: The blood-shedding of the martyrs is the sacrifice which is related to that of the Lamb. In the Book of Revelation, John sees the martyrs standing next to the heavenly altar of sacrifice. Then - after searching for the spiritual meaning of the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter, which he finds in the vicarious nature of Christian sacrifice - Origen concludes that through the death of the pious martyrs many others receive blessings beyond description.

After martyrdom comes virginity as a self-sacrifice, then refraining from pride, avarice, lying etc.. Origen assures that only when a believer is purged of sin, he can offer sacrifice pleasing to God.

 

 

SPIRITUAL WORSHIP AS A SELF-SACRIFICE

By constant prayer that we become living stones from which Jesus builds the altar on which to offer spiritual victims.

The spiritual cult is the sacrifice of prayers;

The spiritual altar is the mind of faithful Christians;

Spiritual images of God are the virtues implanted in men by the Logos.

On this internal altar the believer must offer without ceasing. Truly celebrating a continuos feast, serving God faithfully, living ascetically and prayerfully, and continually offering to God bloodless sacrifices in prayer.

The Body of Christ is a spiritual temple,

and the Christian people continually celebrate spiritual feasts and fasts by constant prayer and abstention from wickedness.

Above all Christ Himself is the Perfect Sacrifice, and He is the High Priest through whom Christian prayers are offered.

Origen realized that the "burnt offering" in the Old Testament meant the highest sacrifice of praise, not an offering of placation as in Greek religion; so his exposition of Christian burnt offering implies the same thing.

 

 

OUR BODY, THE TEMPLE OF GOD

Origen sees it, the altar on which Christian sacrifice takes place is the altar within us. Our body is a temple of God, and the best of these temples is the body of Jesus Christ. The temple which has been destroyed will be rebuilt of living and most precious stones, with each of us becoming a precious stone in the great temple of God. As living stones we must also be active. For if, says Origen, I raise my hands in prayer, but leave hanging the hands of my soul instead of raising them with good and holy works, then the raising of my hands is not an evening sacrifice. In a concrete application, Origen remarks that good and holy speech is an offering to God, but bad speech is an offering to idols; and whoever listens to bad speech eats what has been offered to idols.

True to the central Christian mystery of the incarnation Origen also emphasizes the importance of the body in the sacrifice of the Christian; for no one weak in soul and slow in words can offer the saving sacrifice. Thus, following the New Testament, Origen sees the gift worthy of God not in sacrifices or holocausts, but in the very life itself of the Christian. As he comments on the widow's offering, he reminds us that it is not what or how much we offer that is important, as long as it consists of all that we are and have, and as long as we offer it with our whole strength.

 

 

SUFFERING AS A SPIRITUAL SACRIFICE

The Lamb takes away the sins only of those who suffer. If we want to offer to God our proud flesh as a sacrificial calf, we must first mortify our members and live ascetically lest, after preaching to others, we fall away ourselves. Contact with Christ’s sacrifice is saving, but only if one draws near to Jesus, the Word made flesh, with full faith and obedience as did the woman with the hemorrhage who was healed by touching Christ's robe (Mark 5:25-34) .

 

 

OFFERING SPIRITUAL SACRIFICE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD

The true believer must not only offer his own-self as a sacrifice to God, but also he must do that in the sight of the Lord (Lev. 6:18),and not to go out of His sight as Cain did (Gen. 4:16,14.

If there is anyone who has faith to stand "in the sight of the Lord" and does not flee "from his face" and the knowledge of sin does not turn his gaze aside, this one offers a sacrifice "in the sight of the Lord" (Lev. 6:18). Therefore, he said this "offering" which is offered "for sins" is "very holy" (Lev. 6:18).

 


 

MYSTICISM

 Origen is one of the creators of the language of mysticism. He created some of his themes by starting from Scripture and also using philosophic data and Hellenistic imagery.

The knowledge which the mystic receives is in its essence inexpressible: it is a direct contact between the divine Spirit and the human spirit by-passing to a certain extent a mediating tractor, whether concept, sign or word. And yet the beneficiary tries to describe it in order to communicate it.

It gives the impression that divine grace and man work together like two men pulling a cart together. As the themes that we have been studying and the ones we are about to study show, it is God and his Christ who are working: man's role is to let God act in him or to stop Him doing so.

MYSTICISM AND THEOLOGY

The soteriological attitude of Origen, as of all other Alexandrian Fathers, destroys the contrast between mysticism and theology. For the term "mysticism" denotes no more than a spirituality which expresses a doctrinal attitude; this spirituality is the main line in Origen’s theology, cosmology, ecclesiology, anthropology, angelogy, eschatology etc. His main purpose in all his works is the restoration of the soul’s nature to be perfected so that she may become an icon of God, and to attain mystical union with God.

Origen, who is considered as the first Eastern theologian, is at the same time one of the great leaders in spirituality. This confirms that mystics are not set against theologians, as some scholars believe. On the contrary, mysticism and theology support and complete each other. One is impossible without the other. A theologian must express and reveal truth through his practical life.

Unlike gnosticism, in which knowledge for its own sake constitutes the aim of the Gnostic, Origen was eager to acknowledge his hunger for discovering his inner man, transforming his soul, attaining mystical union with God, and practicing the heavenly life in the inner kingdom. Thus theology has an eminently practical significance; it is the royal way for mysticism.

 

 

Is Origen a mystic?

Rowan A. Greer presents three points:

First, Origen believes that in the highest aspect of the Christian life we shall know God, see Him face to face, and be joined with Him in a union of love.

Second, this destiny represents the completion of our nature; we were created after God's image in order to have perfected knowledge of and fellowship with him.

Third, our natural destiny is merely potential until God rouses our minds and empowers them to become what in principal they are.

Therefore, if one defines mysticism as a state in which we are somehow enabled to transcend ourselves, Origen is a mystic only in a qualified sense. From one point of view the highest aspect of the Christian life simply completes our nature. But from another point of view, since only God can give us this power, Origen may properly be regarded as a mystic.

 

 

THE MYSTICAL THEMES

I have already referred to these themes throughout the previous chapters, for in all his works Origen is absorbed in the restoration of the soul.

 

1. Mystical Marriage

Origen presents the "mystical marriage" between Christ and the soul as a present experience. He repeatedly refers to the ascent of the soul, by the work of the divine grace, to the heavenly nuptial chamber. There she practices mystical union with the Heavenly Groom, the Word of God, who reveals the divine mysteries, or the Truth, to His bride.

Christ is called the Bridegroom of the soul, whom the soul espouses when she comes to the faith.

In his Commentary on the Song of Songs, Origen states that the bride who is wounded by the divine arrow is the faithful soul. This arrow represents above all love, or Christ Himself who is Love. On the contrary, wicked people are wounded by the flaming darts (the sins and the vices) of the Evil one which he produces, and they are accepted by those who receive them.

The archer is either the Father or the Son; the arrow is obviously the Son; but the latter also becomes the wound which the arrow inflicts on the soul according to a passage of the Contra Celsus: the impress of the wounds that are marked on each soul after the Word, that is the Christ in each individual, derived from Christ the Word.

As a churchman, Origen speaks of the Church also as the bride of Christ, through her, every faithful soul enjoys a personal experience of the mystical or spiritual union or marriage.

 

2. Mystical Motherhood of the Soul

If the soul is to give birth to the Word, then Mary is its model: And every soul, virgin and uncorrupted, which conceives by the Holy Spirit, so as to give birth to the Will of the Father, is the Mother of Jesus.

This birth of Christ in the soul is essentially bound up with the reception of the Word and in a certain way Jesus is thus being continually born in souls. The Father originates this generation. It first becomes apparent in the virtues, for Christ is all virtue and every virtue, the virtues are identified with Him as it were in an existential way. But if the Christ is not born in me, I am shut out from salvation.

Such is 'the Christ in each individual, derived from Christ the Word'. When Jesus from the Cross said to St. Mary, indicating St. John: "Behold your son," He did not mean that He was in this way making St. John another son of his mother, for St. Mary never had more than one son, but that St. John was in this way becoming as if he was Jesus Himself, so much so that it is impossible to understand the Gospel of John unless one has the mind, the nous, of Christ.

The righteous man is begotten by God, begotten in his Son, in each of his good deeds. And the result will be the condition of blessedness in which all men, having become in a way inferior to the Only Begotten Son, will see the Father as the Son sees Him.

But this Jesus who is born in us is killed by sin: He cannot be contained in souls which sin renders too narrow and He is barely alive like an anemic baby in lukewarm souls: in the others He grows. It can even happen that some accord Him such a place within them that He walks in them, lies down in them, eats in them, with the whole Trinity. It is in our hearts that we must prepare a way for the Lord, both by the purity of our moral life and by the development of contemplation. In each of us Jesus can grow in wisdom and stature and in grace.

The soul which has just conceived the Word of God is said to be a woman with child. We read about such a conception also in another passage: "From your fear, Lord, we conceive in the womb and give birth" (Cf. Isa. 26:17-18) .

 

3. The Inner world

Origen considers the inner world is the true world, therefore the first step for ascending to heaven is discovering one’s self, as we have mentioned before.

 

4. The Inner Jerusalem

For Origen, Christ desires to enter our inner Jerusalem, to reign there. There His heavenly kingdom is established.

 

5. The Inner Altar and Temple

We noticed that Origen exhorts us to offer our inner man to Jesus Christ to establish His temple by the work of His Holy Spirit, and to reveal Himself as the High Priest who serves therein and offer Himself as the Victim.

It is just, indeed, that each one be found to have his own portion in the Lord's tabernacle. For what each one offers does not escape the Lord's notice.

How glorious it is for you if it be said in the Lord's tabernacle: "That gold," for example, "with which the ark of covenant is covered, is his; the silver from which the bases and the columns are made is his; the bronze from which the rings and laver and some bases of the columns have been made is his; but also those stones of the cape and breastplate are his; the purple with which the high priest is adorned is his; the scarlet is his" and so on for the other things.

And again how shameful, how miserable it will be if the Lord, when He comes to inquire about the building of the tabernacle, should find no gift from you in it; if He should perceive nothing offered by you. Have you lived so irreligiously, so unfaithfully that you have desired to have no memorial of your own in God's tabernacle?

For just as "the prince of this world" (Cf. John 12:31), comes to each one of us and seeks to find some of his own deeds in us and if indeed he find anything he claims us for himself, so also, on the contrary, if the Lord, when He comes, should find something of yours in His tabernacle, He claims you for Himself and says you are his.

Lord Jesus, grant that I may deserve to have some memorial in Your tabernacle.

I would choose, if it be possible, that mine be something in that gold from which the mercy seat is made or from which the ark is covered or from which the candlestick and the lamps are made.

Or it I do not have gold, I pray that I be found to offer some silver at least which may be useful in the columns or in their bases. or may I certainly deserve to have some bronze in the tabernacle from which the loops and other things are made which the word of God describes.

Would that, moreover, it be possible for me to be one of the princes and to offer precious stones for the adornment of the cape and breastplate of the high-priest. But because these things are beyond me, might I certainly deserve to have goats' hair in God's tabernacle, lest I be found barren and unfruitful in all things.

6. The Inner Transfiguration

For Origen, the transfiguration of Christ within us is the favorite subject of this theme: comment on this is found in the works of Origen's old age, Commentary on Matthew, Contra Celsus and homilies.

Man receives true life from his participation in Christ, who is Life, and who transmits to man the life that He eternally and unceasingly receives from the Father.

 

7. The Inner Senses

Before Origen, Theophilus of Antioch spoke of the "eyes of the soul" and the "ears of the heart", but Origen was to use this theme on a great scale.

For Origen the humanity of Jesus was like a screen hiding His divinity from the eyes of men. What hides the divinity of Jesus from the eyes of men is first the will of Jesus not to reveal it so, since a divine Person is only seen when He reveals Himself: and second, man's unpreparedness in ascetic terms to perceive it, the lack of "spiritual eyes."

The risen Jesus, manifesting Himself in His divinity through his glorified body, only showed Himself to his apostles and not to Pilate, to Herod, to the chief priests, who had had Him crucified, for they were incapable of perceiving his divinity.

In the Song of Songs, the Heavenly Groom praises His bride, for having dove’s eyes, that is a spiritual perception of the meaning of the Scriptures, through the inner eyes.

But "blessed are those eyes" (Luke 10:23) which inwardly see the divine Spirit that is concealed in the veil of the letter; and blessed are they who bring clean ears of the inner person to hear these things. Otherwise, they will perceive openly "the letter which kills" in these words.

Simon didn’t enter the temple by chance, but he was led by the Spirit of God...

You also, if you want to receive Christ, embrace him among your hands and be ready for freedom from prison, endeavor to be led by the Spirit who enters you into the temple of God. There is Jesus inside the church, in the temple which is established by the living stones.

 

8. The Inner Ascent

For Origen every "going up" mentioned in the holy books, for example from Egypt to Palestine or from Galilee to Judaea, symbolizes a spiritual ascent, and every "going down" a decline. Thus Mary, after the annunciation, goes into the hill country (Luke 1:39) to meet Elizabeth and in her presence to give vent to an outburst of joy: in this she is fulfilling an apostolic mission, in that she is allowing the Jesus she carries in her womb to 'form' (morphoun) the John that is in Elizabeth's.

 

The inner ladder which the soul uses to ascend from day to day to heaven is love. J.W. Trigg says,

Like Plato in the Symposium, Origen identified love as the power that leads the soul from earth to heaven by enabling it to concentrate all its energies on the attainment of the beloved object. God the Creator, Origen argued, is love, and had made us kindred with God by implanting that love in us.

It is, nevertheless, our duty to direct the love God has given to us to its appropriate object... The prime object of our love should be God, who is ever the same. Our neighbors are also appropriate objects of our love since insofar as they are rational creatures they also were created in incorruption...

We must not love earthly and corruptible things but use them to further our legitimate love. Love thus motivates ethics and mystical contemplation.

 

9. The Inner Treasure

In Chapter nine we noticed that our Lord Jesus Christ offers Himself to the soul to possess Him as her Treasure. He enriches her and satisfies all her needs.

And perhaps, as the Apostle says, for those who have their senses exercised to the discerning of good and evil (Heb. 5:14), Christ becomes each of these things in turn, to suit the several senses of the soul.

He is called the true Light, therefore, so that the soul’s eyes may have something to lighten them.

He is the Logos, so that her ears may have something to hear.

Again, He is the Bread of life, so that the soul’s palate may have something to taste.

And in the same way, He is called the Spikenard or Ointment, that the soul’s sense of smell may apprehend the fragrance of the Word.

For the same reason He is said also to be able to be felt and handled, and is called the Logos made flesh, so that the hand of the interior soul may touch concerning the Word of life (John 1:1-4; 1 John 1:1).

But all these things are the One, Same Logos of God, who adapts Himself to the sundry tempers of prayer according to these several guises, and so leaves none of the soul’s faculties empty of His grace.

10. Inner Joy

The presence of the Groom in the heart of the bride changes all her life unto an unceasing feast, He offers Himself as her Feast and eternal joy.

Through the co-operation and presence of the Word of God encouraging and saving us, our mind is made joyful and courageous in the time of trial, and this experience is called "enlargement."

The tones of joy over the revelation of glorious and eternal life, victory over sin, evil world, demons and death, and the unceasing ascent of the soul towards heaven ring through Origen’s writings. The mood of exalted joy crystallized into his outlook upon divine grace cooperating with man’s free-will.

 

 

11. The Inner Light

Light that shines in our inner man symbolizes the graces of knowledge.

Each of the divine Hypostasis has His part to play in the giving of this light.

"In Your light do we see light": for Origen that means: "we shall see the Light that is the Father through the Light that is the Son." The Son is called: Light of the World, True Light, Light of men, Light of the Nations, Sun of Righteousness, Rising Sun. Also the Holy Spirit is called Light, for illumination is attributed to Him.

The Church has also been called, in the persons of the apostles, the Light of the World. She is the moon passing on to men by her teaching the brightness given her by the Sun. For the light of Christ becomes inward in the one who receives it: the latter himself becomes light as he conforms to Christ. In the Beatitude all the saints will become one single solar light in the Sun of Righteousness.

 

 

12. The Mystical food

Origen often recalls the threats God made through Amos (8:11) that He would send on earth a hunger and thirst to hear the Word of God. This is a matter of punishment: the hunger and thirst are not a desire for the Word, but famine and drought, God having deprived His people of all the ministers of His word.

Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, is the Heavenly food, offered as milk to the weak souls, and as strong meat to the mature ones.

He also, as the True Vine produces wine which rejoices the souls, while the bad wine of false doctrine takes one out of the intellect.

Drunkenness by the Wine of the True Vine is not irrational but divine. It is joy, delight, consolation, the pleasure felt by the five spiritual senses, a participation here below in the Beatitude. Knowledge of the mysteries causes our hearts to burn within us, like the hearts of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It brings rest and peace, but an active rest impelled by the fire that it lights in the soul. It is also sweetness. But the most characteristic quality attributed to it is 'enthusiasm', that is to say the feeling that God is present by which the inspiration of the sacred author becomes in a way perceptible to the reader.

The action of the Holy Spirit is also marked in the gift of the living water.

 

13. The Inner Battle

The Incarnation, the Passion, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of the Logos are not illusion, nor deception, as the Gnostics taught, but reality. He became true man so that he might enter in an actual battle with the Devil, and thus He gains victory over Him as over death, on our account. Thus in Him we gain daily victory in our battle, whose arena is our heart.

Through this inner battle, we are transformed every day to a kind of glorious nature, as we might be made divine by growing in bearing the image of the Logos.

 

14. Education of Wilderness

Moses also lived in the wilderness after his flight from Egypt, while he was 40 years old... But John went to the wilderness after his birth, of whom it is said that he was the greatest among those who was born from men. He was worthy to have an excellent education.

 

ASCETICISM

1. We are aware of the life of poverty and mortification which Origen had imposed upon himself from his youth; he tried to lead his disciples and his hearers along the same road. In this matter especially the prophets and the apostles were his masters.

The life the prophets chose is "difficult to imitate, hard, free, invincible in face of death and danger." Such were Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, "who went beyond all asceticism, living for three years naked and without shoes," and Daniel with the young men who were his companions, who would live only on water and vegetables. Compared with these examples, the strength of Antisthenes, Diogenes or Crates was but child's play.

The apostles themselves are also our models, especially St. Paul. He brought his body into subjection; he found strength in his weakness. Christians often ask God to grant them the lot of the prophets and the apostles: let them understand what this prayer means.

Give us to suffer what the prophets suffered, grant us to be hated as the prophets were hated, give us to preach a doctrine, which shall make us hated; give us as many trials as the apostles. But to say: 'Give us the lot of the prophets' if we do not wish to suffer what the prophets suffered is an unjust pretense."

2. Origen acknowledges asceticism without implying hostility to the body, for he considers it as a fitting vehicle during our life on earth to ascend to God. This acceptance of the body and the sense of wholeness that it provided is what separated previously Christians and Platonists from the Gnostics.