The Untame Faith of Aphrahat and Chrysostom

Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, Aphrahat the Persian

If terms like aphthartodocetism don’t make you interested in Patristics, hopefully names like Aphrahat (called ‘the Persian’) and Chrysostom (means ‘Goldenmouth’) will. I blogged here recently about how the Fathers can help us untame the paltry god of our own making; the faith — trust, reliance — of the Fathers is also untame, as we see below.

First, a beautiful, lyrical passage from the Syriac Father Aphrahat the Persian (fl. 336-345):

Faith causes the barren to sprout forth. It delivers from the sword. It raises up from the pit. It enriches the poor. It releases the captives. It delivers the persecuted. It brings down the fire. It divides the sea. It cleaves the rock, and gives to the thirsty water to drink. It satisfies the hungry. It raises the dead, and brings them up from Sheol. It stills the billows. It heals the sick. It conquers hosts. It overthrows walls. It stops the mouths of lions and quenches the flames of fire. It humiliates the proud and brings the humble to honor. All these mighty works are wrought by faith. (Demonstration 4.17-18, from Ancient Christian Devotional, Year B, p. 160)

Imagine such a wild, untame faith taking a hold of your life! And it can, right down to those pesky passions:

By ‘his darts’ Paul means both temptations and perverse desires. He calls them fiery because that is the nature of the appetite. Faith is capable of commanding hosts of demons. How much more is faith capable of ordering the passions of the soul? (John Chrysostom, Homily on Ephesians 24.6.14-17, from Ancient Christian Devotional, Year B, p. 199)

Faith, the attitude of trust and reliance, of repose and assurance, in the All-mighty, Untame God can transform us and the world. We just need to actually have it — actually trust in what God can do in our lives by His good grace.

To close, Brennan Manning (paraphrased/half-remembered):

The difference between faith as believing in a God who may or may not exist and faith as trusting in God is enormous; the one can leave you unchanged; the other intrinsically brings change. (Somewhere in The Ragamuffin Gospel)

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