20 February 2013

Patristic Quote of the Day

How pitiful I am; and how pitiful is my daily repentance, for it has no firm foundation. Every day I lay a foundation for the building, and again with my own hands I demolish it.—St. Ephraim the Syrian, Spiritual Psalter #10


Unknown said...

Compare Martin Luther, The Small Catechism, The Sacrament of Holy Baptism:

“What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer.
It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?--Answer.
St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

They cannot both be right. Is one of them wrong, or are they both wrong? Are there any other possibilities?

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Compare St. Paul, Romans 7:18,19; Galatians 5:17

Unknown said...

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Actually St. Paul is being charitable here, because we always do what we want to do; that is the problem. Nobody is forcing us, kicking and screaming, to sin. We do it because it is our nature. The vast majority of our sins are committed without even noticing them. In some cases we are aware that one path is right, the other wrong. When, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we choose the right one, then that is what we want to do. When we ignore the urgings of the Holy Spirit and “the mind of Christ” which is in us, then we also do what we want. Simul …

Galatians 5:17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.

Again, St. Paul very kindly assumes that we always want to do the right thing, but the fact remains that when we do the wrong thing, it is what we want to do.

Both passages, St. Ephraim and Luther deal with sanctification. Ephraim is writing that each day his own deeds return him to where he started. He seems to take the view that there is no progress in his sanctification. He can find no joy in his salvation. Every sin seems to him to return him to where he started.
Luther seems to be saying (actually I have no clue what he is saying) that after, by contrition and repentance, each day the sinner in us is killed, a perfect being is formed. So there would appear to be progress in sanctification. However, Luther continues that somehow the “old Adam”, who has been drowned one day to be replaced by a perfect being, is there again the next day. Otherwise there would be no need for the “new man” to rise on a daily basis. So is there progress or is there not?

I am pretty sure that I know what Luther and the Confessions teach on this subject, but in this case Luther seems, to me, not to be very clear.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart