Smart Parenting XX. Applying Christ’s Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are the Pure of Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)

In a previous article (Morelli, 2012) I discussed the importance of Christ delivering the Beatitudes while on the summit of the mount. My commentary was based on Forest's (1999) insight that the 'mount" as an object that is high and points to heaven, and was, as such, purposely chosen by Christ. Forest writes: "Mountains are images of earth reaching toward heaven, thus places of encounter between Creator and creature." This is most fitting because it relates to the spiritual preparation needed to "see God."

St. Gregory of Nyssa

St. Gregory of Nyssa

St. Gregory of Nyssa (1954) refers to this symbolism of the mount in his Homily VI on this Beatitude. First, St. Gregory takes the perspective of God's vision, from above, of His creation beneath Him:

When from the sublime words of the Lord resembling the summit of a mountain I looked down into the ineffable depths of His thoughts, my mind had the experience of a man who gazes from a high ridge into the immense sea below him.

But, as St. Gregory points out, we have a conundrum. In the Old Testament Book of Exodus, (33: 17) Moses tells us God’s words to him: "Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live." St. John the Evangelist reiterates this revelation. "And of His fullness we all received, and grace for grace; for the law was given through Moses, but the grace and the truth came to be by Jesus Christ. No one hath seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, that One declareth Him.” (Jn. 1:16-18).

Isaiah the Prophet

Isaiah the Prophet

Also from the Old Testament, consider God's words as told to us by Isaiah the Prophet (55:9): "But as the heaven is distant from the earth, so is my way distant from your ways, and your thoughts from my mind." We can also look to the teaching of St. Paul who says of God that He is ". . .the King of those who reign as kings and Lord of those who lord as lords, the One Who alone hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable, Whom not one of mankind did see, nor is able to see, to Whom be honor and everlasting might. Amen.” (1 Tim. 6:15,16).

St. Gregory resolves this enigma by distinguishing between the essence of God, which cannot be beholden, versus the effects that derive from His essence, that is to say His energy, which can be seen. To use St. Gregory's words: "...knowledge of the Divine essence is inaccessible to thought.... For He is invisible by nature, but becomes visible in His energies, for He may be contemplated in the things that are referred to Him."

St. Gregory gives us two examples of what can be comprehended. Think of the words of the psalmist: "How great are thy works, O Lord? thou hast made all things in wisdom: the earth is filled with thy riches." (Ps 103: 24). St. Gregory understands this to mean that God reveals Himself to us both by the wisdom of what He does and by the beauty in His works. Also, we may consider the divine splendor in the words of King David when he says: "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth knowledge." (Ps 16 1-2).

Thus, we can see the importance of St. Paul's words to the Philippians (1:9-11):

And this I pray, that your love be abounding yet more and more in full knowledge and all perception, for you to approve the things which are excellent, in order that ye may be sincere and without offense until the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruits of righteousness which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

St. Symeon The New Theologian on seeing God

St. Symeon The New Theologian

St. Symeon The New Theologian

St. Symeon the New Theologian has a very spiritually perspicacious insight into the problem of seeing God. First keep in mind what Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ said of Himself: “I am the light of the world; the one who followeth Me in no wise shall walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of the life.” (Jn. 8:12). St. Symeon (Philokalia IV) points out to attain "[purity] of heart and every other beatitude can only be accomplished by cultivating continual watchfulness, that is to say a constant alertness to things of God and not of this world and preventing them from entering the heart. Thus the meaning of this beatitude is that it is only the "pure in heart" that can receive this vision of the Divine.

To see God is of necessity to understand purity

The ancient languages of Aramaic and Hebrew are very informative in understanding the spiritual meaning of purity and thus in comprehending the necessity to be pure of heart to "see God." In Aramaic, purity is associated with the term zakah (innocency)i, which in turn is related to the Hebrew root word zakak, which means to be translucent.ii Translucency means that light is allowed to pass through it. Therefore, if some faculty of perception is covered over with a barrier of any type it cannot fulfill its function; light cannot pass through it; what it is attempting to perceive cannot be perceived because the faculty is not translucent.

Sin blocks out the light of God

St. Diadochos of Photiki

St. Diadochos of Photiki

Jesus Himself tells us: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore thine eye be sound, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." (Mt. 6:22-23). Now the Eastern Church considers the heart to be the core, the center of man's spiritual being. It is the place where spiritual perception rests. As Jesus put it: “The good man bringeth forth out of the good treasure of his heart that which is good; and the evil man bringeth forth out of the evil treasure of his heart that which is evil. For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaketh." (Lk. 6:45).

St. Diadochos of Photiki (Philokalia I) tells us that the heart "does this not because it is the heart’s nature to produce evil ideas, but because as a result of the primal deception the remembrance of evil has become as it were a habit."

Fr. Staniloae

Fr. Staniloae

Staniloae (2003) understands this as the heart having two aspects. One part ". . .has its face turned toward God." Quoting St. Mark the Hermit, Staniloae explains: “From there, from "the hidden temple of the heart, the mind receives good and beautiful stimuli from Christ who dwells there," and Who nurses them into a virtuous life." The other heart Staniloae calls the "subconscious of the passions." It is linked to our biological self and involves the psychological process of memory of past passionate arousals and actions. We can choose to focus on the passions and continue to work toward inordinately satisfying them.

St. Isaac the Syrian

St. Isaac the Syrian

St. Isaac the Syrian (2011) puts it this way:

It is better to avoid the passions by the recollection of the virtues than by resisting and arguing with them. For when the passions leave their place and arise for battle, they imprint on the mind images and idols. This warfare has great force, able to weaken the mind and violently perturb and confuse a man's thinking. But if a man acts by the first rule we have mentioned, when the passions are repulsed they leave no trace in the mind.

However, passions draw us into an empty slavery to the passions to fulfill them, but they can never be satisfied. In this regard, we can apply the wisdom of King Solomon: "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea doth not overflow." (Ecc 1: 7) A craving for praise (pride), material goods (greed), sexual arousal (lust), striking out at others (anger), food and drink (gluttony), begrudging others (envy), focusing on self rather than God,(sloth), can never be satiated. St. Neilos the Ascetic (Philokalia I) asks: "What advantage do we gain in life from all our useless toil over worldly things?" St. Maximos the Confessor would have us consider that all the passions involve egoism, that is to say, self-love, in some manner. He tells us: "Self-love is an impassioned, mindless love for one's body. Its opposite is love and self-control. A man dominated by self-love is dominated by all the passions." (Philokalia II).

The reason for the futility of living a life focused on fulfilling the passions is beautifully summarized by Staniloae (2003):

This always unsatisfied infinity is due both to the passion in itself, as well as the object with which it seeks satisfaction. The objects which the passions look for can't satisfy them because the objects are finite and as such don't correspond to the unlimited thirst of the passions.

Staniloae goes on to make a very important observation regarding the interaction of body, soul and spirit in satisfying the passions. He writes: ". . .the close unity of the body and soul causes the bodily passions to be interwoven with those of the soul, or to have inter-influence." St. John of Damascus provides a concrete example of this interaction:

For countless pleasures surge to and fro attracting the eyes of the soul: pleasures of the body, of material things, of over-indulgence, of praise, laziness, anger, of power, avarice and greed. These pleasures have a glittering and attractive appearance which, though deceptive, readily seduces those who do not . . . . [fear God and love Christ]. (Philokalia II)

St. Paul's understanding is that sin produces a hardness of heart. In Staniloae’s terms: the part of the heart that could be facing God is, instead, facing the world of the senses:

testify in the Lord: ye are no longer to walk even as also the rest of the nations walk, in the vanity of their mind, who have been darkened in thought and alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance which is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; who, having become insensible, gave themselves up to licentiousness, for the working of all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not thus learned the Christ—if indeed ye heard Him and were taught in Him, as truth is in Jesus: to put off from yourselves the old man, with respect to the former manner of life, who is being corrupted according to the desires of the deceit, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, who, according to God, was created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph. 4:17-24)

St. John of Damascus

St. John of Damascus

St. John of Damascus on focusing the heart on God so as to see Him

St. John (Philokalia II,) tells us that the passions can be classified by the tripartite functions of the soul: ". . .the intelligent, the incensive and the desiring aspect.." In his monograph On the Virtues and Vices, St. John goes on to list the passions and accompanying sins and their cure. His teaching is so comprehensive and thorough it bears quoting in full:

The sins of the intelligent aspect are unbelief, heresy, folly, blasphemy, ingratitude and assent to sins originating in the soul's passible [susceptibility to feeling, pain or suffering and/or influence by external factors] aspect. These vices are cured through unwavering faith in God and in true, undeviating and orthodox teachings, through the continual study of the inspired utterances of the Spirit, through pure and ceaseless prayer, and through the offering of thanks to God. The sins of the incensive aspect are heartlessness, hatred, lack of compassion, rancor [bitter anger], envy, murder and dwelling constantly on such things. They are cured by deep sympathy for one's fellow men, love, gentleness, brotherly affection, compassion, forbearance and kindness. The sins of the desiring aspect are gluttony, greed, drunkenness, unchastity, adultery, uncleanliness, licentiousness, love of material things, and the desire for empty glory, gold, wealth and the pleasures of the flesh. These are cured through fasting, self- control, hardship, a total shedding of possessions and their distribution to the poor, desire for the imperishable blessings held in store, longing for the kingdom of God, and aspiration for divine sonship.

The Holy Spirit-inspired Church Father then goes on to delineate the stages of how the passions start and their final ensnarement of us into total sinfulness. He lists ". . . . provocation, coupling, wrestling, passion, assent (which comes very close to performance), actualization and captivity." The first step, provocation, is a suggestion; St. John likens it to the commands of the Evil One given to Our Lord while in the desert: “If Thou art God’s Son, command that these stones become loaves” (Mt. 4:3); “If Thou art God’s Son, cast Thyself down" (Mt. 4:6); “All these things [the kingdoms of the world and their glory] will I give to Thee if Thou wilt fall down and make obeisance to me.” (Mt. 4:9).

Habit formation and automaticity in contemporary psychological research

It is most interesting that empirical scientific behavioral observation has uncovered processes similar to the stages of passion outlined by St. John of Damascus. Bargh (1994), for example, summarizes the stages of habit formation that lead to automaticity. The stages with the related terms used by St. John of Damascus (in parentheses) include: awareness (provocation, coupling, wrestling and passion), intention, efficiency (assent and actualization) and automaticity (captivity).

These findings would suggest that the cognitive-behavioral treatment interventions to modify and change dysfunctional cognition, emotion and behavior can be helpful in controlling passions and their consequences (Morelli, 2010) and thereby working at attaining purity of heart.

Bandura's social learning theory (1986) provides a good graphic overview of the research-clinical model:

Bandura's social learning theory


Bandura's social learning theory

The praxis of spiritual perception: metanoia

In order to put into practice Staniloae’s (2003) spiritual insight that we have two aspects of the heart, we must turn our hearts toward God and thus away from the passions. But this brings up another enigma. How do we turn toward God, if we do not see Him because we are so mired in the passions that the light of His beauty and wisdom is blackened out? The answer can be found in part in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Culture in Tradition

In a previous paper on the spiritual application of the Beatitudes to our lives (Morelli, 2012) I discussed this parable from the viewpoint of what Bailey (2005) would describe as a Western perspective. He makes the point, however, that we should penetrate the culture of the speaker that: "...there are layers of perception that can only be uncovered when the culture of the Middle East is understood and applied to the interpretation of Scripture." In fact, this approach may be more in line with the Eastern Church's understanding of Sacred Scripture. This understanding is articulated by Fr. John Breck (2001) in his seminal work Scripture in Tradition. He discusses the ancient Christian exegetes, the Fathers of the Church, who understood Sacred Scripture "from a more holistic point of view." Thus, he speaks of the "inspired vision" of Divine Truth that was revealed to mankind by Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, which "...escape[s] a purely scientific or empirical approach to interpretation." It is the work of the "...the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, that One shall teach you all things, and shall remind you of what I said to you," (Jn. 14:26) who, as told to us by Jesus Christ himself, acts through the Church, and the Church Fathers in particular, to "...preserve and transmit the essential elements of Tradition."

Parable of the Prodigal Son

Parable of the Prodigal Son

Below I have highlighted in square brackets ([])some of the relevant passages from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for which, as recommended by Bailey (2005), a cultural understanding of the meaning of the parable and its application to "purity of heart" can be helpful.

And He said, “A certain man had two sons. [All three individuals in the parable are mentioned in the opening verse]. And the younger of them said to the father, ‘Father, give to me the portion of the property which falleth to me.’ [Focus on one thing: material wealth. To get this he expresses a desire to break a relationship with the Father: to sin. Relationships are important among Jewish people, during the time of Jesus. The father, the family, the clan and all observing his action will suffer.]

And he divided to them his means of living. And not many days after, the younger son, having gathered all together, went abroad into a distant land, [In Hebrew culture, inheritance involves responsibility. He takes his share of the wealth while shirking responsibility: caring for his family. He also gives up and loses the physical and psychological security his family and clan would provide him in the present and in the future.]

and there scattered his property, living profligately. [Further acting out of sin: wasteful, spendthrift living. In Middle East culture, this may refer to building a reputation by holding great banquets and over-generous gifts or, based on the testimony of the older son who could have had 'insider information,' living an immoral life.]

But after he spent all, there arose a severe famine throughout that land, and he began to be in want. [He would be estranged from family and villagers and at a time of famine might be vilified and even physically attacked by villagers in need.]

“And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that land; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. “And he was longing to fill his belly from the husks, which the swine were eating; and no one was giving to him. [The Greek word for joined (kollao) used by St. Luke implies something that clings but is unwanted, like desert sand on the feet - the wealthy citizen wants to separate himself from the ne'er-do-well Jewish prodigal and sends him into an abhorrent, detestable and ritually prohibited task of being among swine, feeding them, let alone eating their swill.]

“But having come to himself, [He came to see the whole pictureiii: the loss of his father, the value of his previous relationships], he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father abound in loaves, and I am perishing with hunger! [the real wealth he once had.]

“‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I sinned against heaven and before theeiv, and am no longer worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.”’ [Impure confession, the son has a motive: as a servant he can get paid and start to regain status.]

“And he rose up and went to his father. But when he was yet far away, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, [A Middle East countercultural act on the father’s part. The father initializes reconciliation. The prodigal's father is a prototype of God the Father, as St. Paul writes: "But all things are from God Who reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not reckoning their transgressions to them, and He put in us the word of reconciliation." (2Cor 5: 18-19)] and ardently kissed him.

“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no longer worthy to be called thy son.’ [A pure confession with no expectation of self-gain, as he had in his original thought, now a true metanoia, acceptance of his father’s reconciliation, a gift from his father.]

“But the father said to his slaves, ‘Bring forth the robe, the chief one, and clothe him, and provide a ring for his hand and sandals for their feet. “‘And bring the calf, the fattened one, and slay it; and let us eat and be merry; “‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; and he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. [The son is given back his status and honor by his father - to be acknowledged and respected by all.]

“Now his son, the elder one, was in a field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. “And he summoned one of his servants, and began inquiring what these things may be. “And he said to him, ‘Thy brother is come, and thy father slew the calf, the fattened one, because he received him back safe and sound.’ “But he was angry and not willing to go in. [A breach of Middle Eastern custom and respect; and a display of his rancorous envy toward his younger brother and greed because of how he would inherit less wealth.]

Then his father went out and besought him. [This connotes a respectful entreaty.]

“And he answered and said to his father, ‘Behold, so many years I am serving thee, and never did I transgress thy commandment, and never didst thou give a kid to me, in order that I might make merry with my friends; “‘but when this thy son came, the one who devoured thy means of living with harlots, thou didst slay for him the calf, the fattened one.’ [Doesn't use the title 'father,' he criticizes his father's action and wants his due-a disrespect in the Middle East.]

“And he said to him, ‘Child, thou art always with me, and all that is mine is thine. “‘But to make merry and to rejoice was fitting, because this thy brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” [Despite the older son's disrespect, he initiates reconciliation like he did with his younger son—a prototype of God the Father and His love unrequited by His sinful people.] (Lk. 15:11-32)

Applying the lessons in the Parable of the Prodigal Son

The root of the Prodigal's sin and his reconciliation with his father can easily be understood by Staniloae's understanding that the heart has two aspects, one facing God the other facing the passions. He started out by facing the passions – the allurements of the material world. He turned his back on family and community. However, he eventually purified his heart by turning toward his father. It must be remembered that the Prodigal did not initiate the reconciliation. He responded to his father's pursuit of him. To do our part, we have to nurture the virtue of discrimination. St. Antony the Great of the Desert points out: "And this is just what we find; for the power of discrimination, scrutinizing all the thoughts and actions of a man, distinguishes and sets aside everything that is base and not pleasing to God, and keeps him free from delusion." (Philokalia I, That is to say, we have to make a willful decision to keep our gaze on God. St. Hesychios the Priest (Philokalia I) tells us that one way to keep our gaze on God and thus acquiring purity of heart is watchfulness: "Watchfulness is a continual fixing and halting thoughts at the entrance to the heart." (Philokalia I,) He describes watchfulness as ". . .a spiritual method which, if sedulously practiced over a long period, completely frees us with God's help from impassioned thoughts, impassioned words and evil actions. It leads, in so far as this is possible, to a sure knowledge of the inapprehensible God, and helps us to penetrate the divine and hidden mysteries." He explicitly links watchfulness to purity of heart and points out that it is the way to attain this purity. He writes: "It is, in the true sense, purity of heart, a state blessed by Christ when He says: 'Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God' (Matt. 5:8)" St. Hesychios intimates that it is a state of "spiritual nobility." It is difficult to attain, but necessary in order to lead a life of holiness.

Persistence

Discrimination and watchfulness must be combined with persistence. We could consider persistence to be holding up in the face of the vicissitudes of life. St. Maximus the Confessor puts it this way:

The saints are full of goodness, compassion, kindliness and mercy. . . .Because of this they hold fast throughout their lives to the highest of all blessings, humility, that conserves other blessings and destroys their opposites. Thus they become totally immune to vexing trials and temptations, whether those due to ourselves and subject to our volition [to be repelled by self-control], or from ourselves beyond our control [to be repelled by patient endurance]. (Philokalia II)

Some practical pointers

The ethos behind putting this Beatitude into practice is based on Christ's answer to the young man who called out to Him as 'good Master' wanting to know what to do to attain eternal life: "And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? None is good but one, that is God." (Mk 10: 18). We can follow the advice of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain and focus on the goodness of things around us and connect them to the good God. The Elder says this:

. . .evil does not exist in this world. Everything was created by God and He saw it as "very good" (Gen 1: 31). Evil exists when we make wrong use of the things God granted to us for our benefit. It is not bad to have money, but it is bad to be avaricious. Drugs are not an evil thing, when used to relieve the pain of people who suffer. They are bad when used for a different purpose. A knife is a useful utensil, when we use it to cut bread. However, when it is used to hit someone, it becomes a deadly weapon. . . .Therefore we must use everything in the right way. (Ageloglou, 1998)

Similar to Staniloae's describing the two aspects of the heart [God vs. the passions], the Elder distinguishes two types of people:

I know from experience that in this life people are divided into two categories ... The first resembles the fly . . . it is attracted by dirt. For example when is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt on the ground . . if the fly could talk,. . . it would [say]: . . "I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt." . . .The other category is like the bee . . whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on . . it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on the sweet . . it would say "I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar.". . .it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil.

The mind as an aid in the spiritual journey

Cognitive Clinical Science would say that choosing to focus on the "dirt" is an example of being influenced by the cognitive distortion of selective abstraction, i.e., 'focusing on one event while excluding others.' (Morelli, 2009). Cognitive Therapy intervention would involve the patient challenging the cognitive distortion by asking disputational questions, the most relevant of which is:

  • Is there any other way of looking at the situation?

If all aspects of a situation are perceived, one can then move on to decision-making. The spiritually unhealthy cognitions (focusing on evil) can be replaced by spiritually healthy thinking (focusing on the 'good'). This does not mean that we are unaware of the evil. It does not mean that we do not see the whole picture. It does mean that we choose not to follow the path of evil and act like the "fly," but follow the path of the "bee" by deciding to do what is good. This is consistent with the Elder Paisios' thinking: "We must always be careful and constantly question the nature of our thoughts." (Ageloglou, 1998) The Elder, talking to someone who endured the horrific vagaries of the Vietnam War and came to associate traffic noise with the sounds of war, gave this advice: "Think about the wars, the people who are being killed or dying of hunger, the houses that are being bombed. . . . Then the association of the traffic noise with the noise if the war will become a very good reason for you to glorify God. . . ."

Socratic Interaction

In many articles in my smart parenting seriesv I have emphasized three points. Firstly, let the person you are talking to tell you what they think about the subject. This is certainly true when discussing issues with children, but is equally applicable to discussions by adults amongst themselves. Secondly, use the Socratic Method as I outlined it. Ask how their view may square with Christ's teachings or the Church's understanding of the issue. Many previous parenting series articles give examples of the use of this technique. Thirdly, say as few words as possible. Do not preach. Child development research supports that children learn words on the occasion of a single exposure to a new word. (Rice, 1990). This process, sometimes called fast mapping, suggests that understanding develops by the child's being given freedom to experience the meaning of words as applied to new contexts and their own actions. The Socratic Method, incidentally, allows the child to do this. Individuals imposing their own interpretation on children and others restricts cognitive understanding by the self- discovery process. As I have pointed out in the many smart parenting articles, preaching also cognitively distracts the child from the issue and also promotes dysfunctional emotional reactions such as anger.

St. Paul's Vision: The Fruits of Spiritual Warfare

St. Hesychios the Priest calls the struggle to see God and thereby obtain holiness "spiritual warfare." (Philokalia I). He goes go on to say that prayer is the major weapon to win this victory: "He should possess prayer."vi Thereby, the evil one will be "broken and routed by the venerable name of Jesus . . . .prayer which is ever active in the inner shrine of the soul, and which by invoking Christ scourges and sears our secret enemy."

Thus, at the cusp of our earthly life and hopeful entry into the bosom of God and thus to "see Him" we can say along with St. Paul: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." (2Tm 4: 7) For, as St. Paul tells St. Timothy in his first letter (6: 12), this warfare bears fruit: "Fight the good fight of faith: lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called, and hast confessed a good confession before many witnesses."

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

ENDNOTES

i http://concordances.org/hebrew/2136.htm

ii http://concordances.org/hebrew/2135.htm

iii In Cognitive Therapy, focusing on one thing rather than the whole is a thinking error, that is to say, a cognitive distortion. The technical name for this is: selective abstraction, which I define as: "focusing on one event while excluding others" (Morelli, 2009).

iv Bailey (2006) suggests that the Prodigal's thought was not true repentance. It is almost verbatim Pharaohs' 'confession' to Moses during the plagues. "Wherefore Pharaoh in haste called Moses and Aaron, and said to them: I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you," (Ex 10: 16) which was an attempt to manipulate Moses and the Hebrew people and keep them in subjection. Bailey's hypothesis is that the Prodigal was motivated to manipulate his father into trusting him.

v www.orthodoxytoday.org/archive/morelli

vi My editor, Anne C. Petach points out the benefit of the fasting periods of the Church as opportunities for parents to be explicit, primarily by example, but also in conversation. She noted this could be an aid in the struggle against the pull of the allurements of the passions, both in terms of entitlements to luxuries (an attitude that derailed the Prodigal Son and blinded him) and images so very prevalent in our times, and that cloud the translucence I discuss in this article that also is so very prevalent in our times. This would allow more time and inner 'space' for prayer. She also suggests that the giving of alms likewise works on disciplining the passions and children can readily grasp this when it is presented to them as a personal challenge in small, appropriate ways. I would say that her spiritual advice surely can be applied by adults as well.

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Date posted: January 2, 2013