John Chrysostom On Prayer (Part 2)

See part 1 for the introduction. Here’s another excerpt from a little latter in the homily. I was much more free with this translation, since the syntax was pretty far from anything resembling English. Corrections, as always, are welcome. The Greek text can be found here. I started at “θάνατος γὰρ ψυχῆς ἀσέβεια.”

“Ungodliness and the irreverent life are death for the soul. But is not the worship of God, and proper life, sustenance for the soul? Prayer leads to a life that is worthy of serving God, and it enriches our very souls. For if one extols virginity, or zealously honors the temperance of marriage, or rules over anger and lives with meekness, or is purified of envy , or practices one of the other virtues, then they will have an easy and light time on the race-path of godliness, for their path has been made smooth by the leadership of prayer.”
John Chrysostom, De Precatione.

John Chrysostom on Prayer (Part 1)

This week, my campus pastor spoke about prayer, and I decided it would be beneficial to offer some thoughts from the Church Fathers on prayer throughout the week. Most likely, they will come from John Chrysostom, since I’m reading one of his homilies at the moment. It’s titled, quite appropriately, “On Prayer” (Περι Προσευχης). The Greek text can be found in the Patrologia Graeca 50.775. I found it online here.

Here’s an excerpt from the first homily (my own translation, corrections are welcome).

“For just as the sun is light to the body, so prayer is light to the soul. If then it is a great loss for a blind person to not see the sun, how much worse is it for a Christian to not pray always, and through praying to lead the light of Christ into their soul? Indeed, who wouldn’t marvel in amazement at the loving mercy of God that has been shown to us, that such a great honor has been given to us, that we are considered worthy of prayer, and of communion with God himself! For in the time of prayer, we truly do speak with God, and through this prayer we are joined with the angels.”
~John Chrysostom. De Precatione. Homily 1.

Greek to Latin translation example

As a follow up to my post from a few days ago, I thought that I’d post an example of Greek to Latin translation. For those familiar with Latin, you’ll see just how nascent my Latin is. Naturally though, the purpose of this is to learn Latin (and practice Greek), not to produce the successor to the Vulgate ;-).

I’ve tried to produce a fairly literal translation, though there were a few places where I simplified the syntax (trading participles for sub-clauses), or used an infinitive instead of a relative clause.

This excerpt is from John 1:26-29. I’ve included the Greek text (which comes from a manuscript at the British Library:, my Latin translation, and an English translation. I have since looked at the Vulgate, but I haven’t corrected my word choice or sentence structure against the Vulgate. (For instance, I should have put Ecce agnus Dei in the final line, but I used a plural imperative of video instead). I’ve only corrected grammatical/spelling errors as I’ve noticed them. If you spot any errors, please let me know in the comments!

in caritate Dei,

εγω βαπτιζω εν υδατι, μεσοσ δε υμων εστηκεν ον υμεις ουκ οιδατε
Ego baptizo per aquam. in medio vostrorum stetit quid vos non conspicitis.
I baptize with water. Among you all stood the one whom you do not understand.

αυτος εστιν ὁ οπισω μου ερχομενος ος εμμπροσθεν μου γεγονεν.
ille est qui post meum veniet et ante meum fuit.
He is the one who comes after me, and was before me.

ὁυ εγω ουκ ειμι αξιος ινα λυσω αυτου τον ιμαντα του υποδηματος
Ego non sum dignus lorum calceorum solvere.
I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandles.

ταυτα εν βηθανια εγενετο περαν του ιορδανου ὁπου ην Ιωαννης βαπτιζων.
haec in Bethanae in ripa Iorandanis fuerunt, ubi Joanes baptizibat.
These things took place in Bethany at the bank of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

τη επαυριον βλεπει ὁ Ιωαννης τον Ιησουν εχρομενον προς αυτον και λεγει
cras vidit Joanes Jesum venientem ad illum et dixit,
On the next day, John saw Jesus approaching him and said,

ιδε, ὁ αμνος του Θεου, ὁ αιρων την αμαρτιαν του κοσμου.
Videte, agnus Dei qui rapit peccatum mundi.
Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Learning Latin with Greek

As I’ve been plodding away trying to learn Latin, I thought that I’d write a bit about my process. Over the span of my Latin study, I’ve tried four or so different approaches. The first was Rosetta Stone. I honestly found Rosetta Stone frustrating. Maybe it was because I never got past “puer legit” and “puella edit” but it was boring and I often felt like the vocabulary being taught was useless. I suppose it is useful to know “radiophonam” is a modern word for radio, but that wasn’t going to help me read Augustine or Cicero. Granted, I do think immersion is a good thing (which entails learning modern words), but that didn’t help my interest.

At the same time, I was also using the traditional textbook: Wheelock. The traditional approach was similar to how I had approached Greek: memorize the basic charts and just start translating sentences. I do find Wheelock a bit daunting. The amount one has to memorize for Latin is significantly higher than one does for Greek (5 declensions versus 3!). I’m still working through it because I do like seeing all of the grammar laid out, but it’s not my sole approach any longer.

Recently, I purchased Ortberg’s excellent “Lingua Latina per se illustrata.” For those who aren’t familiar with this book, it’s an excellent way to get acquainted with reading Latin. The chapters start off very simple “Roma in Italia est. Italia in Europa est. Graecia in Europa est” etc. It progressively gets more difficult, but the entire textbook is in Latin. The exercises are mostly of the “fill in the the ending” sort, which is fantastic practice as I try to make the declensions second nature.

Since my knowledge of basic grammar has progressed somewhat, I’ve added a third practice that really seems to be helping. One thing I’ve realized about language is that I don’t even begin to internalize it until I start “producing” in the language. Thus, I’ve started translating bits of the Gospel of John into Latin (from Greek of course!). This is not only much more fun than Ortberg or Wheelock, but I’m learning quite rapidly. I’m having to look up most of the words I write, but certain things are starting to stick. Plus, there’s something that’s just fun about writing in Latin. Perhaps that’s the nerd in me though ;-). Oh, and if you really want to nerd out, then don’t dare translate from your printed/online Greek New Testament. Instead, pull up one of the beautiful Greek manuscripts online, like this one. Then you can practice your Latin, Greek, and Paleography!

Finally, I’ve found reading about the Church Fathers to be helpful also. I’m currently reading J.N.D. Kelly’s excellent biography of Jerome. As the early Church’s linguist par excellence, he definitely encourages me to press on. I want to be able to read what he wrote in the original!

in caritate Dei,

What I’m doing these days

I’ve not posted in quite some time, so I figured it might be a good thing to post what I’ve been doing these past few months. Quite a few things have changed.

First, I got married to a wonderful woman (Brianna) on May 13 of this year. (Maybe that’s my excuse for not blogging!). We have both loved marriage thus far. I’ve learned much already, and it’s hardly been four months!

In the Spring, I began working with my Religious Studies professor, Dr William Adler, on a text called the Palaea Historica. This is a 9-10th century Greek text that retells the Old Testament from Adam up to Daniel. It’s full of extra-biblical material, and a fascinating story! Just a small example: it has a large, expanded account of Melchizedek and Abraham. Instead of a priest-king, Melchizedek is a monastic figure! A Greek edition of this work was published in 1893 by a Russian named Vasiliev under the name Anecdota Byzantina Graeca. However, Vasiliev only used 2 manuscripts, and we’ve been able to locate 12-13. Dr. Adler is currently working on a proper critical edition of the text, and I’ve been able to help some. I’ve been getting to learn how to read ancient Greek manuscripts, and also trying to put my computer skills to good use. I’ve also been working on a web-app that will show differences between manuscripts, using the collateX engine. This, of course, requires transcriptions to be done of each manuscript, which we’ve been working on slowly. I haven’t done much with this over the Summer, but I’m currently looking at ways to statistically group the manuscripts into families. So far I’ve seen some potentially helpful methods here.

Over the Summer, I didn’t do much academic. I worked full-time at IBM and spent time with my wife. We watched a lot of Star Trek: Voyager. I’ve never been a trekkie, but my wife’s a fan and we’ve enjoyed watching it together. The one academic item I did do was take the GRE. I studied for a few weeks, and I was very pleased with my scores. My wife was very helpful during the process. She helped me learn the monstrous 3000+ word list in the Barron’s GRE book! There was only one word I didn’t recognize on the GRE: hangdog. (yes, I’ve already forgotten what it means, something like guilty if I recall correctly).

This fall, I’m entering the final year of my undergraduate degree. I’m currently taking two computer science classes, a technical writing class, and two French literature classes. I’m really enjoying the French lit classes. I’m also happy that I’ll have my French minor done after this semester. Going forward, I plan to start applying to graduate schools soon. I’m hoping to do a masters at Duke (probably an MTS, maybe an MA), and then apply for PhD programs. I’d really like to do my doctorate in Europe, probably at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. I’d be able to do a critical edition, which is not generally allowed in US programs. Plus I’d get to live in Europe and speak French! What’s not to love… ;-). I also really like the work going on at University of Birmingham. They’re doing some fantastic work developing software for editing and publishing scholarly texts. This would be a great fit for me, since I’m a software developer in addition to being a budding Patristics scholar. Unfortunately, studying in the UK is quite expensive for Americans, so I’d have to track down some pretty good scholarships!

So, in the mean time I’m trying to keep up with school, work, Chi Alpha (church), family, and then squeeze in time for languages. I’ve started studying Latin again, and am also working (a bit too slowly) through April Wilson’s German Quickly. That’s in addition to the Greek I do on almost a daily basis, and the French for my literature classes! Fortunately I like languages, but it’s still a stretch. Κυριε, ελεησον με!


John Chrysostom on Singing and Desire

Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ λόγῳ παραστῆσαι τὸν ἔρωτα οὐκ ἰσχύει, περιέρχεται ζητῶν ὑπόδειγμα, ἵνα κἂν οὕτω τὸ φίλτρον ἡμῖν ἐνδείξηται, καὶ κοινωνοὺς ποιήσῃ τοῦ ἔρωτος. Πειθώμεθα τοίνυν αὐτῷ, καὶ μάθωμεν οὕτως ἐρᾷν. Καὶ μή μοι λεγέτω τις· Καὶ πῶς δύναμαι φιλεῖν τὸν Θεὸν ὃν οὐ βλέπω; Καὶ γὰρ πολλοὺς οὐχ ὁρῶντες φιλοῦμεν, οἷον τοὺς ἐν ἀποδημίᾳ φίλους ὄντας ἡμῖν, ἢ παῖδας καὶ πατέρας, ἢ συγγενεῖς καὶ οἰκείους· καὶ οὐδὲν γίνεται κώλυμα ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὁρᾷν, ἀλλ’ αὐτὸ δὴ τοῦτο μάλιστα ἐκκαίει τὸ φίλτρον, αὔξει τὸν πόθον.

For since he (the psalmist) could not represent this desire in words, he became for us an example in his seeking, so that whenever this love-charm is shown to us, we too may share in his desire. Therefore, let us be convinced by him, and learn to desire as he did. But let no one say to me, “And how do I love this God, whom I don’t see?” For there are many whom we love, even when not seeing, like those who are abroad and friends to us, or children and parents, or family and relatives. And not seeing does not become a hindrance, but this is instead the perfect time to light the love-charm, to increase your passion. (PG 55.158)

I have translated ερως, often translated as love, as desire. It commonly has sexual connotations, but I don’t see any of that here. This is desire that is felt between friends and family, and is not limited to husband and wife. I don’t really like the translation of φιλτρον as “love-charm,” but it means something like that, a song designed to kindle up desire for someone close. Here, Psalm 40 is a φιλτρον, “As the deer desires the springs of the waters, so my should desires you, O God.” I also struggled to find good English for κοινωνοὺς ποιήσῃ τοῦ ἔρωτος, which I think is a marvelous turn-of-phrase. Literally it’s, “he makes us partakers of this love/desire.” I switched the sentence and around and made “we” the subject. “Light the love-charm” sounds quite odd to my ear, but I’ll let it stand for now.

η χαρις του κυριου μετα υμων,

John Chrysostom on the Love of God

John’s homily on Psalm 41 (LXX) is full of excerpts I like. Here’s another I read today:

Ἐπεὶ οὐ τοσοῦτον φιλεῖ ἡμᾶς μόνον, ὅσον παιδία μήτηρ φιλόστοργος, ἀλλὰ πολλῷ πλέον, ἄκουσον τί φησιν· Εἰ γὰρ καὶ ἐπιλάθοιτο, φησὶ, γυνὴ τῶν ἐκγόνων αὐτῆς, ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἐπιλήσομαί σου. Τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγε δεικνὺς, ὅτι πάσης φιλοστοργίας θερμότερος ὁ περὶ ἡμᾶς αὐτοῦ πόθος ἐστίν.

So he does not love us in this manner only, as a loving mother with her children, but much more so! Listen to what was said, “For even if a women forgets her children, I will not forget you.” Thus it is clear, then, that his love for us is far greater than any parental love. (PG 55.161).

Even in my budding Greek skills, I’m starting to appreciate why he is called the “Golden-mouthed” and the “Heavenly-trumpet.” If only I could do it justice in translation!


John Chrysostom on worldly and spiritual songs

I was reading John’s homily on the 42nd psalm this morning, and came across this passage. I rather liked it, so I decided to translate it and post it here.

Ἀπὸ μὲν γὰρ τῶν ἔξωθεν ᾀσμάτων βλάβη, καὶ ὄλεθρος, καὶ πολλὰ ἂν εἰσαχθείη δεινά· τὰ γὰρ ἀσελγέστερα καὶ παρανομώτερα τῶν ᾀσμάτων τούτων τοῖς τῆς ψυχῆς μέρεσιν ἐγγινόμενα, ἀσθενεστέραν αὐτὴν καὶ μαλακωτέραν ποιοῦσιν· ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ψαλμῶν τῶν πνευματικῶν πολὺ μὲν τὸ κέρδος, πολλὴ δὲ ἡ ὠφέλεια, πολὺς δὲ ὁ ἁγιασμὸς, καὶ πάσης φιλοσοφίας ὑπόθεσις γένοιτ’ ἂν, τῶν τε ῥημάτων τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκκαθαιρόντων, τοῦ τε ἁγίου Πνεύματος τῇ τὰ τοιαῦτα ψαλλούσῃ ταχέως ἐφιπταμένου ψυχῇ. Ὅτι γὰρ οἱ μετὰ συνέσεως ψάλλοντες τὴν τοῦ Πνεύματος καλοῦσι χάριν, ἄκουσον τί φησιν ὁ Παῦλος· Μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι. Ἐπήγαγε δὲ καὶ τὸν τρόπον τῆς πληρώσεως. Ἄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν τῷ Κυρίῳ. Τί ἐστιν, Ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν; Μετὰ συνέσεως, φησίν· ἵνα μὴ τὸ στόμα μὲν λαλῇ τὰ ῥήματα, ἡ διάνοια δὲ ἔξω διατρίβῃ πανταχοῦ πλανωμένη, ἀλλ’ ἵνα ἀκούῃ ἡ ψυχὴ τῆς γλώττης. (PG 55.157)

For in the songs of the world there is harm, ruin, and much that would lead to danger. For all the licentiousness and lawlessness of these songs bring about divisions in the soul. But in the spiritual psalms, there is great gain, great benefit, great sanctification, and every tenant of philosophy may be found. By these words, the soul is cleansed, and the Holy Spirit is quick to be with the one who sings in this manner. For those who sing with understanding invoke the grace of the Spirit, which is why Paul says, “do not get drunk on wine, in which there is debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. ” Following this phrase on fullness, we hear, “singing and psalming in your hearts to the Lord.” What does it mean to sing “in your hearts to the Lord”? It means to sing with understanding, so that your mouth may not merely speak the words while your mind perishes, entirely deceived and separated. Instead, the soul should heed the tongue.

A question for all ye trinitarian specialists

Currently, I’m reading a Byzantine text called the Palaea.  It’s a collection of stories from the Old Testament, with all sorts of apocryphal legends filled in too.  The work begins with a confession of orthodoxy, but I’m a bit puzzled on what refers to Jesus, and what refers to the entire trinity.  There’s all sort of variants too, which makes it all the more frustrating.  Here’s the portion of the first paragraph:

ὁ πατηρ ὁ αναρχος απεριγραπτος απεριοριστος αγεννητος αοριστος
ακαταληπτος παντα περιεχων και περιοριζων και υπ ουδενος οριζομενος.
θεος ὁ υιος γεννηθεις παρα του πατρος προ παντων αιωνων αρευστως, επ εσχατων
δε σαρκωθεις δια οικονομιαν εκ παρθενου μητρος. ατρεπτος απεριγραπτος κατα
τον πατερα περιγραπτος κατα την σαρκα.  θεος το πνευμα το αγιον ομοουσιον τω
πατρι και τω υιω. ενεργουν τα παντα και διακρατων, διεπων, και συνεχων κατα αμφω
γαρ εν τοις τρισιν ουδε ατελες αλλα μια βασιλεια, μια θελησις, μια ουσια, εν
φως τρισηλιον, δυο φυσεις, θεοτητα λεγω και ανθρωποτητα.

The bolded part is what I’m curious about. My translation: “But [there is] one kingdom, one will, one nature, one three-fold (three-sunned?) light, two natures, I mean the divine and the human.”

The language seems to be referring to the Trinity at first. One will and one nature, in particular, wouldn’t be an orthodox confession of Jesus (condemned as monothelitism and monophytism respectively). I guess my question refers to that language in reference to the whole Trinity. Is there a common divine will among the Trinity? Or am I misreading θελησις which doesn’t strictly mean θελημα…? Why does the author switch so quickly from a confession of the Trinity to a confession of Jesus? Perhaps that’s standard fare that I’m no aware of? Any help would be much appreciated.