Hearers AND Doers

Hearing and doing go together. They depend on one another. Pursuing one without the other or emphasizing one at the expense of the other is not just dangerous, it results in death. Talk is cheap and being “well informed” and learned in and of itself cannot save us. We end up giving what is holy to dogs, throwing our pearls before swine. It is, therefore, antithetical to the gospel.

Our ascetical struggle – our salvation – involves the actualization of both in perfect harmony. And, without a doubt, it is a struggle. The “arena” or “crucible” is the tumult of everyday life in which we practice the disciplines of the Holy Tradition, “in order that the edifice of our life and character might mount up straightly.”

The “arena” or “crucible” is everyday life and we practice the disciplines of the Holy Tradition, “in order that the edifice of our life and character might mount up straightly.”

Let the Word of God through the Scriptures and the wisdom of the Christian ages speak to us in this regard…

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21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many[a]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them,[c]may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the [d]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” 28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7.21-29)

19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear,slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in [w]humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1.19-25)

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Our Lord and our Redeemer Jesus Christ in His living Gospel invited us to draw nigh in wisdom to the work of keeping His commandments, and to lay within ourselves the foundation of His discipline rightly, in order that the edifice of our life and character might mount up straightly. For he who knoweth not how to begin wisely the building of this tower which goeth up to heaven is not able to complete [it] or to bring it to the finish which is of wisdom. For knowledge and wisdom should order, and arrange, and work the beginning and end and founding [of the edifice], and whosoever beginneth thus is called a wise man by the word of our Redeemer, “Whosoever heareth these My words, and doeth them, is like unto a wise man who hath dug, and made deep, and set his building upon the rock: and the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew, and beat st philoxenus of mabbugupon that house; and it fell not; for its foundations were laid upon the rock. But whosoever heareth and doeth not, is like unto a foolish man who set his building upon the sand, and even if feeble things beat upon his building they will sweep it away”.3 We are therefore bound by the word of our Teacher not to be constant listeners only to the Word of God but also constant doers. For the man who, though listening not, doeth, is better than the man who is constant in listening and empty of works, even as the word of the apostle Paul teacheth us, “For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified: for if the Gentiles which have no law do by their own nature [the things] of the law, these, having no law, are a law unto themselves; and they show the work of the law written upon their hearts, and their conscience testifieth concerning them”. The hearing of the law is good, for it bringeth to the works thereof, and reading and meditation in the Scriptures, which purify our secret understanding from thoughts of evil things, are good, but if a man is constant in reading, and in hearing, and in the meditation of the word of God, and yet perfecteth not by his reading the labour of works, against this man hath the Spirit of God spoken by the hand of the blessed David, rebuking and reproving his wickedness, and restraining him from taking even the Holy Book into his polluted hands, saying, “For to the sinner speaketh God, What “hast thou [to do] with the books of My commandments, that thou hast taken My covenant in thy mouth? Thou hast hated My instruction, and thou hast cast My words behind thee,” together with the other things which are written after these. Now as for the man who is constant in reading and remote from deeds, his reading is his own condemnation, and he is the more deserving of judgment, in that while he listeneth every day, he mocketh and is contemptuous every day, and he is thenceforth like a dead man and a corpse which hath no feeling, for if ten thousand trumpets and horns were to blow in the ear of a dead man he would not hear [them]; even thus is the soul which is dead in sins. And the understanding, from which the remembrance of God hath perished in the death-dealing error of the thoughts [of evil things], will not hear the sound of the cries of the divine voices, nor will the trumpet of the word of the Spirit move it, but it is sunk into the sleep of death which is pleasant to it; and although dying, it perceiveth not its death that it might turn and seek life for itself. And as the man who hath died according to nature is not sensible of his death, even so the dead man who dieth by his own will to the knowledge of God feeleth not his death, nor perceiveth his destruction, that he might find a way and seek out an invention of life for himself. For also when God saw the dying condition of the Jews who of their own will stopped their ears, and blinded their eyes, and made thick their hearts against the remembrance of the knowledge of God, He stirred up Isaiah to rouse them up, and cried to him to cry into their ears, saying, “Cry with thy throat, and spare not, and lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew My people their iniquity, and the house of Jacob their sins”. And again in another place8 the same prophet saith, “He said to me, Cry. And I said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is like the grass of the field”. Yea, “like the grass” and like the herb which drieth up before the sun, which when once its natural juiciness and moisture have dried up neither the rain nor all the watering of the fountains can make grow green again, even so became the nation which was dead to all the vivification of the Spirit, and like grass and straw it became dry and withered by reason of the noonday heat of error, and by the hotness of evil things. The soul dieth without the remembrance of God, and when it dieth all its discretion dieth therewith, and all its emotions of thought of heavenly things are annihilated therefrom. While the soul liveth in its natural state it is dying by its own desire; and while it is found in uprightness it is lost in respect of its freedom.

The disciple of God, then, should seek to have the remembrance of his Master Jesus Christ fixed in his soul and to meditate upon it day and night. Philoxenus of Mabbug (A.D.485-519), Ascetic Discourses, number 1.

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