Catecheses for the 4th Week in Great Lent (Saint Theodore the Studite)

NOTE: The place of these two catecheses in the numbering suggests that they may have been given during the 4th week of Lent.

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CATECHESIS 66: That this Pascha is a type of the future and eternal Pascha; and about endurance and courage.

Brethren and fathers, Lent is already galloping past and the soul rejoices at the imminence of Pascha, because by it it finds rest and is relieved of many toils. Why did this thought sound for me in advance? Because it is as if our whole life directs its reason contemplating the eternal Pascha. For this present Pascha, even though it is great and revered, is nevertheless, as our fathers explain, only a type of that Pascha to come. For this Pascha is for one day and it passes, while that Pascha has no successor. From it pain, grief and sighing have fled away[1]; there everlasting joy, gladness and rejoicing; there the sound of those who feast[2], a choir of those who keep festival and contemplation of eternal light; where there is the blessed breakfast[3] of Christ and the new[4] drink of which Christ spoke, I shall not drink of the fruit of this vine, until I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.[5] Of this he spoke to his disciples when he was about to ascend to heaven, I am going to prepare a place for you and, if I go, I will prepare a place for you. I am coming again and I will take you to myself, so that where I am you maybe also. And where I am going you know, and the way you know.[6]And a little further on, On that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.[7] And elsewhere, Father, I wish that where I am they may be with me also, so that they may see my glory, which you gave me, because you loved from before the foundation of the world.[8] But because this concerns not only the Apostles, but also ourselves, he also said, I do not ask this only for them, but also for those who through their word believe in me, so that all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, that they may also be one in us.[9] What could be more comforting than these words? What could be more appealing? What soul can they not soften? What heart not prick with compunction, even should someone say that the human heart is a nature of stone? With thoughts like these the saints bore all that they bore, considering afflictions as joys, constraints as freedoms[10], struggles as delights, harsh training as relaxation, deaths as lives. I beseech you, my brother, should not we also, since we have the same aim and seek the same Pascha, bravely and courageously bear our present condition, not falling, not succumbing to despondency, but rather roused with greater fervour watching for the wicked serpent who works to deceive us by the passions, transforming himself into an angel of light,[11]and altering things from what they are; show dark as light, bitter as sweet. This was how he ensnared our forefather, bewitching his sight and depicting as beautiful what was not, and as a result through food casting him out of Paradise. But let us, who have learned by experience what a deceiver he is, not leave the paradise of God’s commandments, nor, when he indicates to us that the fruit is beautiful, let the eye of soul or body be directed there, otherwise we are being caught in the snare. But let us flee by every means from looking. What the is the fruit which seems beautiful? The love of the flesh, the evil lust of every one of the destructive passions. If we avoid experiencing them, my brothers, we shall be saved and easter[12] to age on age, with all the Saints in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

  1. Isaias 35:10. The phrase is familiar from the prayer for the departed.
  2. Psa. 42:4, where the Greek has a singular. The same phrase is found, but with the plural, in the prayers after Communion.
  3. John 21:12.
  4. The Greek has koinon, ‘common’, but the word should be kainon, ‘new’, as the following citation makes clear. There is also an echo of the Paschal canon, ‘Come, let drink a new drink’ (poma kainon).
  5. Matthew 26:29.
  6. John 14:2-4.
  7. John 14:20.
  8. John 17:24.
  9. John 17:20-21.
  10. It is difficult to reproduce the play in Greek on stenochoria and evrychoria.
  11. 2 Corinthians 11:14.
  12. St Theodore uses a very rare verb paschazein, and temptation to follow G. M. Hopkins and use ‘Easter’ as a verb is irresistible. The only reference in Lampe is to St Theodore’s contemporary Theophanes, who uses it of the Quartodecimans, who ‘Easter’ with the Jews.
Fasting foods for Lent.
Fasting foods for Lent.

CATECHESIS 67: That to feast each day and to easter to the Lord God consists in the death the passions and the resurrection of the virtues.

Brethren and fathers, the day of Pascha is drawing near, since with God’s help we have passed the mid-point of the fast. But are we pressing forward to reach the Pascha that comes and goes? Have we not achieved this year after year? The present Pascha too will pass, for there is nothing lasting inthe present age, but, All our days pass like a shadow,[1] and our life travels like a rapid rider, until it has driven us to the final boundary of life. ‘What’, someone says, ‘is Pascha not to be desired?’ Of course, it very much to be desired. How could it not be? But we accomplish Pascha every day. And what is this? Cleansing from sins, contrition of heart, tears of compunction, a clean conscience, the death of the parts of us that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,[2] and any other evil that is at work. One who has been found worthy in all this does not easter and celebrate a much longed for feast to the Lord just once a year, but, we may say, does so each day. Someone, on the other hand, who does not have all the foregoing, but is held fast by the passions, cannot celebrate. For how can someone celebrate whose god is their stomach?[3] Or who is aflame with fleshly lust? Or melted by the heat of jealousy? Or drowned by the love of money? Or enslaved to vainglory? Or caught up by the other passions. No one could possibly say that someone with a high fever was at rest, or that someone shipwrecked was making a good voyage. It simply isn’t possible. It is impossible for someone who has become dark to be enlightened, or for someone possessed by sins to celebrate. But for you, brothers, we are confident of better things, ones that promise salvation. For our way of life is nothing other than preparation[4] for a feast. Look at the reality: psalmody succeeds psalmody; reading, reading; study, study; prayer, prayer, like a wheel drawing us and joining us to God. How truly excellent is this way of life, how supremely excellent! How blessed this life and thrice-blessed! So then, since we have been shown the sought for Pascha, my honoured brothers, let us make it our aim, and, as far as we can, celebrate it every day, through the death of the passions and the resurrection of the virtues, in imitation of the Lord, because he too suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps.[5] And I say this, not so we become judges of the others —for each has their own load to carry[6]—but so that, conscious of the grace that has been given us by God, we may give thanks to the giver, glorify the benefactor, repay the master, who has not only granted our present blessings, but also, to those who genuinely serve him to the end, he will also give those that are in his promises, that eternal and heavenly Pascha. May we all attain it, by the grace and love for humankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

  1. Psalm 143:4.
  2. Colossians 3:5.
  3. Philippians 3:19.
  4. The ordinary Greek word for ‘preparation’, paraskevi, in Christian Greek also means Friday, in particular Good Friday, the ‘preparation’ for Pascha.
  5. 1 Peter 2:21. The critical editions have the second person throughout.
  6. Galatians 6:5.

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On our imitating the Lord’s sufferings (St. Theodore the Studite)

NOTE: This is the 62nd Catechesis. Migne adds: On the Forty Martyrs [March 9th]. But it seems to have been given after the day itself.

Brethren and fathers, how good it has become for us the separation from the monastery here! For why should our liberty be subject to the judgement of another’s conscience? (1 Cor. 10,29). And why do we maltreat ourselves still for what is of no use? We managed as far as it was possible and the moment allowed; but now, because when the moment summoned they did not choose persecution on behalf of Christ, as certain others, it is necessary to listen to the Prophet when he says, Come out from among them and be separated, (Isa. 52,11) says the Lord. If others act otherwise over these matters, they will render an account to the Lord on the day of judgement; for it seems to me that to be brought under their power is equivalent of being indifferent towards the heretics. You see that the same distinction withdraws us from the world and drives us to trouble, to distress, to hunger, to persecution, to prison, to death; but in all these we must be supremely victorious through the God who loved us, (Rom. 8,37) when, whenever he sees a soul thirsting for him, gives it force to be able to endure sufferings on his behalf. And to this the Forty Martyrs, whose memorial we have just celebrated, bear witness with the others; for we cannot say that they possessed a different nature to the one we have.

But since they loved God with a true heart, they were empowered in their weakness to throw down the invisible enemy by the flesh, and to accomplish a struggle of such a quality and greatness that all Christians praise it in song. And blessed is one who has been granted to share in the sufferings of Christ, (Cf. 1 Pet. 4,13) even to some extent at least: the persecuted, because he too was persecuted; the arrested, because he too was arrested; the reviled, because he too was reviled; the scourged, because he too was scourged; the imprisoned, because he too was imprisoned; see too why it is written, If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny, he too will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful; he is not able to deny himself. (2 Tim. 2,11-13) Do you see the promises and the threats, of what sort and how great they are? For the rest then, brethren, let us strive, let us struggle by the grace of Christ not to shame those things that have been previously mentioned, the banishments, the imprisonments, the scourgings. We may not all have been imprisoned, nor all scourged; but nevertheless the fellowship of life itself becomes a fellowship of sufferings, for if one limb suffers, all the limbs suffer with it; if one limb is glorified, all the limbs rejoice with it. (1 Cor. 12,26) And would that we were even more one body and one spirit, as we have been called in one hope of our calling, (Eph. 4,4) having Christ as the head, to become well-pleasing to God, to gain the kingdom of heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.

10th century ivory Relief Panel depicting the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste.
10th century ivory Relief Panel depicting the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste.

Catechesis for 2nd Week in Great Lent (Saint Theodore the Studite)

NOTE: In some of the monasteries, St. Theodore’s Catechesis is read in the Church during Orthros, but most of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries do not follow this practice. It should also be noted that the monasteries follow “the spirit of the law” and not “the letter of the law” during Lenten periods. This basically means they abstain from the prohibited foods (Dairy, fish, etc.) but allow soy and tofu imitations of many of the foods that are prohibited. As well, not much emphasis is placed on fasting of the taste because “that’s how monks fall into pride and delusion.” Although monastics are instructed that it’s better not to overeat and be gluttonous during Trapeza, in many of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries there are appointed snack times. Many times, outside of the regularly appointed meal times–morning, afternoon, and after apodeipno–various sweets and treats are dispensed to the monastics. The specifics of this tradition vary from monastery to monastery. Monastics who get scandalized by this are warned about falling into delusion and it is explained to them that the same freedom with desserts exists even on Mount Athos and other monasteries in Greece out of economia. It is also explained that these kinds of thoughts–being scandalized with monastics eating desserts everyday–gives the devil a foothold into the monastic’s soul and can drive them out of the monastery. All emphasis and weight is placed on blind obedience and the Prayer; it is taught that those two things will bring every other virtue.

St. Theodore Studium

ON GUARDING THE SOUL FROM DESTRUCTIVE PASSIONS

Brethren and fathers, now that we have fasted for the first week we appear to each other somewhat different to what we were, leaner and paler. But even if our outward nature is wasting away, as the Apostle says, the inner is being renewed day by day. For what it is to see a body healthy-looking and sleek through pleasure; this it is to understand what follows for the soul through self-mastery, so that by humbling the body we shall bring about the beauty of the soul, that beauty which the holy David longed for when he prayed, Lord, by your will you have granted power to my beauty. With this beauty moreover the blessed Paul confirms that we are betrothed to Christ, For I have betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, so your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere commitment to Christ.

In the monasteries, most dairy dessert recipes are replicated using Coffee-mate and so the monastics can eat them on fast days.
In the monasteries, most dairy dessert recipes are replicated using Coffee-mate and so the monastics can eat them on fast days.

Do you each see the greatness of the gift, that we have been granted to have Christ as Bridegroom? Does each of you see how afraid our groomsman is for our safety? So our soul is like a maiden who has been brought into the bridal chamber. Just as she deprives herself of the sight of males, keeping herself within the bridal chamber, exercising every care to preserve herself incorrupt, until the moment comes for her marriage, the soul too requires the same behaviour, with every care to keep herself pure from the corrupting passions of sin, until her departure; at which, as though going from the body as from a bridal chamber, if she were comely, resplendent by good works, she would give joy to the holy Angels, indeed most fittingly; but if she were ugly through wickedness, she will be an object of malignant delight for the demons, an insult to Christ; which is pitiable both to speak and to think about. This is the reason for the punishing of the body; because of this there is austerity, like a bit, reining in the impulses of the flesh, so as not to unseat the charioteer — the mind, not only at the present moment, but throughout the whole of life.

Non-dairy treats for monastics during Lenten periods.
Non-dairy treats for monastics during Lenten periods.

For what is the ascetic life but mastery of the passions, control of thoughts and unrelenting wrestling against invisible foes? And how should these things not afflict the flesh? But this slight momentary affliction of ours, as it is written, is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory, beyond all measure, because our aim is not what can be seen but what cannot be seen. So then for things which cannot be seen, things which Angels too hope to glimpse, for the Bridegroom Christ to whom we are betrothed, I ask and beseech you, brethren, that keep our own soul pure from evil deeds, from sordid thoughts, which defile us, as the Lord said; not thinking any wickedness at all; for by thinking desire is set alight like fire; but taking our stand far from the passions and beating off the tempter from the moment of provocation [For this technical term, see The Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 365. It means ‘the initial incitement to evil’], both by good works making the soul resplendent, and holding fast more fervently to the self-mastery which lies before us, so that, when we have in purity passed over from things here, we may depart in unspeakable joy to heaven and delight in the joy of the heavenly bridal chamber, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

On fast days, Veggie Burgers w/ Soy Cheese is a treat for the monastics in some monasteries.
On fast days, Veggie Burgers w/ Soy Cheese is a treat for the monastics in some monasteries.

ON HARMONY AND LOVE AND ON NOBLY ENDURING THE TOILS OF VIRTUE FOR GAINING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

Brethren and fathers, in my lowliness I rejoice over you, because you are walking in harmony, conducting yourselves peaceably and continuing the season of the fast with endurance. And this is for your salvation and for our hope; for peace and harmony are a considerable good in a community, already evils are kept far away: disorder and instability, contradiction and slander, disobedience and pride and any other wickedness that may exist! Such people in the first place find good for themselves, secondly they are set forth as an example of virtue to others, and thence they gain the greatest benefits. For as those who are causes of scandals inherit the Woe, so those who incite to virtue inherit blessing. And never, brethren, let us fall away from the good state and the praiseworthy way of life, nor let us leave off loving God; for it is written, You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole strength and your whole mind. One then who loves thus is not satiated, does not fall, is not overtaken by despondency [The translators of the Philokalia use ‘listlessness’ for this well known monastic scourge, akedia See Volume 1 pp. 88-91 for St John Cassian’s account, or Step 13 of The Ladder].; rather he adds fire to fire, and sets enthusiasm alight with enthusiasm, disposing ascents of virtues in his heart and going from power to spiritual power; and this unremittingly. Do you not see how much those who toil according to the flesh toil for vain and perishable things?

In the monasteries, soy milk is an essential staple for breakfast cereals.
In the monasteries, soy milk is an essential staple for breakfast cereals.

Do you not see how those who build ships here under your very eyes [St Theodore and his monks were in exile at this time at the monastery of Crescens on the narrow gulf of Nikomedia (the modern Izmit Körfezi) at the NE end of the Sea of Marmara.] pass the whole day in toil , not allowing themselves any relaxation whatsoever? For what? So that they may acquire a little gold, so that they may take home what they need for their families; while we, to become rich with the things of God, to reach the kingdom of heaven, to enjoy the everlasting good things, to escape the everlasting punishments, shall we not endure all things with all enthusiasm and energy, if it were necessary to shed our blood, to be entirely ready to do so for the Lord? Yes, my brothers, I ask you, let us stand nobly, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, persevering in prayer, attentive to our manual work, to the psalmody, the recitation, the readings, that by such occupation we may keep a hold on the mind, dragging it away from being occupied with vanities; since idleness is the mother of wickedness, while work is the guardian of the mind. Not however through these being turned from our state, but placing even greater emphasis on obedience, good order, the repose of our neighbour, all the other things which bring about the salvation of our soul; besides all these praying also for our brothers who have been scattered here and there; for concerning them too, whom I cannot see before my eyes, it is an anguish for me how each one is coming through safely; but at any rate praying earnestly for my humble person, that a word may be given me when I open my mouth, and a life free from deformation; so that from either side both we and you may be saved, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Tofurky & other veggie meat/cheese products are eaten on fast days by monastics traveling outside of the monastery.
Tofurky & other veggie meat/cheese products are eaten on fast days by monastics traveling outside of the monastery.

ON OUR ACCOMPLISHING THE DAYS OF THE FAST GENTLY AND READILY IN THE HOPE OF LIFE WITHOUT END

Brethren and fathers, fasting is good if it possesses its own special characteristics, which are to be peaceable, meek, well-established, obedient, humble, sympathetic and all the other forms of virtue. But the devil hurries to suggest the opposite to fasters and to make them insolent, angry, bad-tempered, puffed up, so as to produce hurt more than gain. But let us not be ignorant of his plans, but continue our path peaceably, gently, meekly and steadfastly bearing with one another in love, knowing that this is what is acceptable to God; for though you bend your neck double like a hoop and smother yourself with sackcloth and ashes, if these qualities are lacking to you, you would not be well-pleasing to him. Because while fasting batters and wastes the body, it clears the soul and makes it flourish. For as much as our outer nature is perishing, it says, by so much the inner is being renewed day by day. And Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding weight of glory. So that looking at the recompense, let us bear the toils of virtue with long-suffering, giving thanks to the God and Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love. Do we not communicate each day of his immaculate body and blood? [This suggests that daily Communion was the norm for St Theodore’s monks. This would imply that during Lent the Liturgy of the Presanctified was celebrated every weekday, not just on Wednesdays and Fridays.]

Monastics, especially the nuns, are very creative & innovative when it comes to making fasting desserts.
Monastics, especially nuns, are very creative & innovative when it comes to making fasting desserts.

What could be sweeter and more filled with enjoyment than this, since those who partake with a pure conscience will obtain eternal life? Do we not converse each day with the godly David and the other holy fathers through taking in the readings? What could bring greater consolation to the soul? Have we not broken off contact with the world and with our relatives according to the flesh? Again is anything more blessed or higher than this? For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself. And so, my brothers, let us rejoice and be glad as we repudiate every pleasure. All flesh is grass, and all human glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withered and the flower faded, but the work of virtue endures for ever. Is anyone among you suffering? as the brother of God says, Let him pray. Is anyone sad? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone tempted by evil passion? — since the tempter is always at work — let him endure patiently as he listens to the one who says, Blessed is the one who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them, said the Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Fasting pizza with soy mozzarella is a monastic consolation food during Lenten periods.
Fasting pizza with soy mozzarella is a monastic consolation food during Lenten periods.