Friday, February 15, 2013

Preoccupation with Material Things

The Philokalia (Love of the Good/Beautiful) is a collection of writings from the Eastern Church, mostly from the first millennium and  mostly centering on practicing the disciplines and virtues of radical discipleship which lead us toward the good and beautiful life incarnated by Jesus Christ. It can be found online here. I have found the Philokalia a provocative and edifying resource. I quoted excerpts from it in my last post and also here I intend to post a quote or excerpt from various authors found in the Philokalia on Fridays during Lent.
Here is a passage from St Neilos The Ascetic on the scandal of Christians preoccupied with material things:

So great is our preoccupation with material things that we feel no shame when, on breaking the Savior’s commandments, we are rebuked even by those whom we despise because they still live 'in the world'; for they now teach us instead of us teaching them. When we are quarrelling, they remind us that 'the servant of Christ must not engage in strife, but be gentle to all men'(2 Tim. 2:24); when we are disputing about money and possessions, they quote to us the text, 'If anyone. . .takes away your coat, let him have your cloak also'(Matt. 5:40). They ridicule and deride us because of the incongruity between our actions and our vocation. Indeed, is it ever right to engage in disputes in order to protect our property? Suppose that someone destroys the boundary of our vineyard and adds it to his own land: someone else lets his animal loose in it; and someone else diverts the water supply from our garden. Must we then lose all self-control in such situations, and become worse than madmen? But in that case our intellect, which should be engaged in the contemplation of created beings, must now give its attention to lawsuits, turning its contemplative power to worldly cunning, so as to defend a quantity of unnecessary possessions.
Ascetic Discourse

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