The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
This is what Abba Daniel the Pharanite said, ‘Our father Abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and simple faith; through his naivete he was deceived and said, ‘The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.” Two old men having learnt that he uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said ‘Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.’ The old man said, ‘It is I who have said that.’ Then the old men exhorted him saying, ‘Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the Catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ and that the cup itself is His blood and this in all truth and not a symbol. But as in the beginning, God formed man is His image, taking dust from the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with the bread of which He said that it is His body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ.’ The old man said to them, ‘As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced.’ So they said, ‘Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that God will reveal it to us.’ The old man received this saying with joy and he prayed these words, ‘Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery to me, Lord Jesus Christ.’ The old men returned to their cells and they also prayed to God, saying, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man, that he may believe and not lose his reward.’ God heard both the prayers. At the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the bread, behold an angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the child’s blood into a chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small pieces, the angel cut the child in pieces. When they drew near to receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of bloody flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, ‘Lord, I believe that this bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood.’ Immediately the flesh which he held in his hand became bread, according to the mystery and he took it, giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, ‘God knows human nature and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith.’ Then they gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the reward of his labor. So all three returned with joy to their own cells.
“…it is alike impossible for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, and for the virtuous, to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions.”
(St Justin Martyr, First Apology, 12)
“And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.”
(St Justin Martyr, First Apology, 21)
In 1854, Pope Pius IX pronounced the Roman Catholic dogma of the immaculate conception as follows:
“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.” (Ineffabilis Deus, issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854)
The Orthodox Church has never accepted this teaching however, as the Patriarch of Constantinople explained in his letter to the Roman Pope in 1895:
St Irenaeus of Lyons (130-202 AD)
Against Heresies, 3.4.1
“Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?”
St. Mark the Ascetic
On the Spiritual Law
Two Hundred Texts
27. Scripture speaks of faith as ‘the substance of things hoped for’ (Heb. 11:1), and describes as ‘worthless’ those who do not know the indwelling of Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5).
St Diadochos of Photiki
Faith: dispassionate understanding of God.
The Church Fathers teach that God’s expulsion of our ancestors from Paradise was not a cold and heartless act of legal retribution, but was grounded in his paternal love which desires our salvation. The punishment was respectful of human free will, honouring Adam’s decision to pursue the autonomy of non-being rather than communion with the source of life. It was also a merciful punishment, because it prevented Adam’s corrupted and fallen state from being nourished by the tree of life, which would have granted immortality and power to the destructive impulses of sin. Finally, the condemnation of humanity to a mortal and corruptible existence serves as a reminder that created things and worldly pleasures are transient and lifeless and that we must return to the eternal and life-giving Creator.
Here are some excerpts from the Church Fathers regarding the expulsion from Paradise:
St. Mark the Ascetic
On Those who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works
Two Hundred and Twenty- Six Texts
5. He who relies on theoretical knowledge alone is not yet a faithful servant: a faithful servant is one who expresses his faith in Christ through obedience to His commandments.
18. Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they possess true faith. Others fulfill the commandments and then expect the kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken.
22. When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’ (Matt. 16: 27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer.
142. He who believes in the blessings of the world to come abstains of his own accord from the pleasures of this present world. But he who lacks such faith becomes pleasure-loving and insensitive.