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Letter Eight: To Demophilos, Therapeutes. About minding one's own business, and kindness.

Translated by Rev. John Parker, 1897.

Letter VIII

To Demophilus, Therapeutes. About minding one's own business, and kindness.

Section I.

The histories of the Hebrews say, O noble Demophilus, that, even that holy, distinguished Moses was deemed worthy of the Divine manifestation on account of his great meekness [Num. 12:3-8]. And, if at any time they describe him as being excluded from the vision of God [Ex. 4:14], they do not cast him out from God for his meekness. But they say that when speaking very rashly, and opposing the Divine Counsels, Jehovah was angry with him with wrath. But when they make him proclaimed by his God-discerned deserts, he is proclaimed, from his pre-eminent imitation of the Good. For he was very meek, and on this account is called "Servant of God," and deemed more fit for vision of God than all Prophets. Now, when certain envious people [Num. 16:1-11] were contending with him and Aaron, about the High Priesthood and government of the tribes, he was superior to all love of honour, and love of rule, and referred the presidency over the people to the Divine judgment. And, when they even rose up against him, and reproaching him concerning the precedency, were threatening him, and were already almost upon him, the meek man invoked the Good for preservation, but very suitably asserted that he would be guiltless of all evils to the governed. For he knew that it is necessary, that the familiar with God the Good should be moulded, as far as is attainable, to that which is specially most like the Good, and should be conscious within himself of the performance of deeds of good friendship.

And what made David, the father of God [Matt. 1:1-16], a friend of God? Even for being good and generous towards enemies, [1 Reigns/Sam. 24:7, 13:14]. The Super-Good, and the Friend of Good says: "I have found a man after mine own heart." Further also, a generous injunction was given, to care for even one's enemy's beasts of burden, [Ex. 23:4]. And Job was pronounced just [Job 1:8], as being free from injury. And Joseph [Gen. 1:21] did not take revenge upon the brethren who had plotted against him; and Abel, at once, and without suspicion, accompanied the fratricide. And the Word of God proclaims all the good as not devising evil things [1 Cor. 13:5], not doing them [Ps. 14(15):3], but neither being changed from the good, by the baseness of others [Rom. 12:21], but, on the contrary, after the example of God [Matt. 5:45], as doing good to, and throwing their shield over the evil; and generously calling them to their own abundant goodness, and to their own similitude.

But let us ascend higher, not proclaiming the gentleness of holy men, nor kindness of philanthropic angels, who take compassion upon nations, and invoke good on their behalf [Zech. 1:12], and punish the destructive and devastating mobs, and, whilst being grieved over calamities, yet rejoice over the safety of those who are being called back to things good [Luke 15:7]; nor whatever else the Word of God teaches concerning the beneficent angels [Ps. 90(91):11]; but, whilst in silence welcoming the beneficent rays of the really good and super-good Christ, by them let us be lighted on our path, to His Divine works of Goodness. For assuredly is it not of a Goodness inexpressible and beyond conception, that He makes all things existing to be, and brought all things themselves to being, and wishes all things ever to become near to Himself, and participants of Himself, according to the aptitude of each? And why? Because He clings lovingly to those who even depart from Him, and strives [Matt. 6:19] and beseeches not to be disowned by those beloved who are themselves coy; and He bears with those who heedlessly reproach Him [Luke 23:34], and Himself makes excuse for them, and further promises to serve them, and runs towards and meets [Luke 15:20] even those who hold themselves aloof, immediately that they approach; and when His entire self has embraced their entire selves, He kisses them, and does not reproach them for former things, but rejoices over the present, and holds a feast, and calls together the friends, that is to say, the good, in order that the household may be altogether rejoicing.

(But, Demophilus, of all persons in the world, is at enmity with, and very justly rebukes, and teaches beautiful things to, good men, and rejoices.)

"For how," He says, "ought not the good to rejoice over safety of the lost, and over life of those who are dead." And, as a matter of course, He raises upon His shoulders that which with difficulty has been turned from error, and summons the good angels to rejoicing, and is generous to the unthankful, and makes His sun to rise upon evil and good, and presents His very soul [1 Jn. 10:2] as an offering on behalf of those who are fleeing from Him.

But thou, as thy letters testify, I do not know how, being in thy senses, hast spurned one fallen down before the priest, who, as thou sayest, was unholy and a sinner. Then this one entreated and confessed that he has come for healing of evil deeds, but thou didst not shiver, but even insolently didst cover with abuse the good priest, for shewing compassion to a penitent, and justifying the unholy. And at last, thou saidst to the priest, "Go out with thy like"; and didst burst, contrary to permission, into the sanctuary, and defiledst the Holy of holies, and writest to us, that "I have providentially preserved the things sacred, which were about to be profaned, and am still keeping them undefiled."

Now, then, hear our view. It is not lawful that a priest should be corrected by the Leitourgoi, who are above thee, or by the Therapeutæ, who are of the same rank with thee; even though he should seem to act irreverently towards things Divine, and though he should be convicted of having done some other thing forbidden. For, if want of order, and want of regulation, is a departure from the most Divine institutions and decrees, it is not reasonable that the divinely transmitted order should be changed on God's behalf. For Almighty God is not divided against Himself, for, "how then shall His kingdom stand," [Matt. 12:26]? And if the judgment is of God, as the Oracles affirm [Isa. 30:18], and the priests are angels and interpreters, after the hierarchs, of the Divine judgments, learn from them through whom thou wast deemed worthy to be a Therapeutes, through the intermediate Leitourgoi, when opportunity serves, the things Divine suitable for thyself [Ec. Hier. c.6, part 2].

And do not the Divine Symbols proclaim this, for is not the Holy of holies altogether simply separated from all, and the order of the consecrators is in closer proximity to it than the rank of the priests, and following these, that of the Leitourgoi. But the gates of the sanctuary are bounded by the appointed Therapeutæ, within which they are both ordained, and around which they stand, not to guard them, but for order, and teaching of themselves that they are nearer the people than the priesthood. Whence the holy regulation of the priests orders them to participate in things Divine, enjoining the impartation of these to others, that is to say, the more inward. For even those who always stand around the Divine Altar, for a symbolical purpose, see and hear things Divine revealed to themselves in all clearness; and advancing generously to things outside the Divine Veils, they shew, to the subject Therapeutæ, and to the holy people, and to the orders under purification, according to their meetness, things holy which had been beautifully guarded without pollution, until thou didst tyrannically burst into them, and compelledst the Holy of holies, against its will, to be strutted over by thee, and thou sayest, that thou holdest and guardest the sacred things, although thou neither hast known, nor heard, nor possessest any of the things belonging to the priests; as neither hast thou known the truth of the Oracles, whilst cavilling about them each day to subversion of the hearers. And even if same civil Governor undertook what was not commanded him by a King, justly would any one of the subordinates standing by be punished who dared to criticise the Governor, when justifying, or condemning any one; (for I do not go so far as to say to vituperate), and at the same time thought to cast him from his government; but thou, man, art thus rash in what concerns the affairs of the meek and good, and his hierarchical jurisdiction. We are bound to say these things, when any one undertakes what is above his rank, and at the same time thinks that he acts properly. For this is not within the powers of any one. For what was Ozias doing out of place, when offering incense to Almighty God, [2 Chron. 26:16-19]? and what Saul in sacrificing, [1 Reigns/Sam. 13:19]?

Yea, further, what were those domineering demons [Mark 3:11], who were truly proclaiming the Lord Jesus God? But every one who meddles with other people's business, is outlawed by the Word of God; and each one shall be in the rank of his own service, and alone the High Priest shall enter into the Holy of holies, [Lev. 16:2], and once only throughout the year, [Ex. 30:10], and this in the full legal hierarchical purification, [Ex. 19:21]. And the priests encompass the holy things, [Num. 4:15], and the Levites must not touch the holy things, lest they die. And Jehovah was angry with wrath at the rashness of Ozias, and Mariam becomes leprous [Num. 12:10], because she had presumed to lay down laws for the lawgiver. And the demons fastened on the sons of Sceva, and He says, "I did not send them, yet they ran, and I spake not to them yet they prophesied," [Jer. 23:21]. "And the profane who sacrifices to me a calf, (is) as he who slays a dog," [Isa. 46:3], and to speak briefly, the all-perfect justice of Almighty God does not tolerate the dis-regarders of law, but whilst they are saying "in Thy Name, we ourselves did many wonderful works," [Matt. 7:23], He retorts, "And I know you not; go from Me all ye workers of lawlessness."

So that it is not permissible, as the holy Oracles say [Deut. 16:20], even to pursue things that are just, when not according to order, but each must keep to himself, [1 Tim. 4:16], and not meditate things too high and too deep for him, [Rom. 2:23], but contemplate alone things prescribed for him according to order.

To next section.


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, St. Andrew of Crete, 2004.

Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servants the translator John and the scribe Roger.