Who was Moses the Black?

As the book is getting closer and closer to the release date, I thought it important to give more information on who Moses the Black really was. We have a lot of information regarding his life before his conversion and leading to his martyrdom, however the beauty of ficition is that the imagination of the wirter gets to fill in some of the holes where we don't know much. So, below is a shortbiography of his life so that we can begin learning more and more about this incredible man who left a life of debauchery and slavery to sin to embrace the asceticism of the monastery and ultiamtely the cross offered by Jesus. 

Life of St. Moses the Black

(Originally appeared on mosestheblack.org) 

Saint Moses Murin the Black lived during the fourth century in Egypt. He was an Ethiopian, and he was black of skin and therefore called “Murin” (meaning “like an Ethiopian”). In his youth he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined a band of robbers.

Because of his bad character and great physical strength they chose him as their leader. Moses and his band of brigands did many evil deeds, both murders and robberies. People were afraid at the mere mention of his name.

Moses the brigand spent several years leading a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert monasteries. Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance, but the former robber would not be driven away nor silenced. He continued to ask that they accept him.

St Moses was completely obedient to the igumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while St Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent the time in prayer and the strictest fasting in a very austere lifestyle.

Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of St Moses. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked the Elders what to do with them. The Elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about the repentance of St Moses, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent monks.

St Moses was not quickly freed from the passions. He went often to the igumen, Abba Isidore, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the Elder taught him never to eat too much food, to remain partly hungry while observing the strictest moderation. But the passions did not cease to trouble St Moses in his dreams.

Then Abba Isidore taught him the all-night vigil. The monk stood the whole night at prayer, so he would not fall asleep. From his prolonged struggles St Moses fell into despondency, and when there arose thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, Abba Isidore instead strengthened the resolve of his disciple.

In a vision he showed him many demons in the west, prepared for battle, and in the east a still greater quantity of holy angels, also ready for fighting. Abba Isidore explained to St Moses that the power of the angels would prevail over the power of the demons, and in the long struggle with the passions it was necessary for him to become completely cleansed of his former sins.

St Moses undertook a new effort. Making the rounds by night of the wilderness cells, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the Elders, who lived far from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. Once, kneeling over the well, St Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, laying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the monk for his victory over them. In the morning the brethren carried him to his cell, and he lay there a whole year crippled. Having recovered, the monk with firm resolve confessed to the igumen, that he would continue to live in asceticism. But the Lord Himself put limits to this struggle of many years: Abba Isidore blessed his disciple and said to him that the passions had already gone from him. The Elder commanded him to receive the Holy Mysteries, and to go to his own cell in peace. From that time, St Moses received from the Lord power over demons.

Accounts about his exploits spread among the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. When he heard of this, St Moses decided to hide from any visitors, and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met servants of the governor, who asked him how to get to the cell of the desert-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: “Go no farther to see this false and unworthy monk.” The servants returned to the monastery where the governor was waiting, and they told him the words of the Elder they had chanced to meet. The brethren, hearing a description of the Elder’s appearance, told them that they had encountered St Moses himself.

After many years of monastic exploits, St Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop clothed him in white vestments and said, “Now Abba Moses is entirely white!” The saint replied, “Only outwardly, for God knows that I am still dark within.”

Through humility, the saint believed himself unworthy of the office of deacon. Once, the bishop decided to test him and he bade the clergy to drive him out of the altar, reviling him as an unworthy Ethiopian. In all humility, the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained St Moses to be presbyter. St Moses labored for fifteen years in this rank, and gathered around himself 75 disciples.

When the saint reached age 75, he warned his monks that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all that were there. The saint blessed his monks to leave, in order to avoid violent death. His disciples began to beseech the monk to leave with them, but he replied: “For many years already I have awaited the time when the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled: “All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword” (Mt. 26: 52). After this, seven of the brethren remained with the monk, and one of them hid nearby during the attack of the robbers. The robbers killed St Moses and the six monks who remained with him. Their death occurred in about the year 400.

Five Books that Inspired Me to Write Fiction

You can't call yourself a fiction author unless you've poured over Tolkien. He stands out above the rest as a creator of genre, style, and language. The Lord of the Rings was actually the first book (or Trilogy) that caused me to become a reader. If I didn't give him credit, I'm pretty sure I'd be sinning. 

What I mostly learned from reading Tolkien is being unafraid to show life as it is. To present the world as something that can be beautiful within the ugliness of daily life. He also wasn't afraid to be different. 

The Lion of War Series is a phenomenal use of literary license with characters mostly unknown from scripture. The series focusses on the Mighty Men of King David. It is written in a very readable and relatable way with stories of war, hardship, and even killing lions. 

I learned here about proper use of literary license, that sometimes the imaginative aspect of historical fiction is what gives it flavor. 

The Broken Empire Trilogy was one of the best fantasy books I've read from modern authors. It is completely written from the first person perspective which allows for some serious introspection that is often brushed over, or at least not done well. The series is very dark but the story and plot line keep you engaged. 

I learned from Mr. Lawrence how to present the darker elements in a way that isn't over the top. I also learned the literary style of modern authors in terms of dialogue and action. 

Set All Afire
By Louis de Wohl

Brandon Sanderson is a fascinating author. He has a very clear talent for fantasy, which is why his final book of the Wheel of Time series wasn't crushed after he took over for Robert Jordan. 

I recently read Elantris, which is a mixture of dark fantasy and political intrigue. I learned from Sanderson how to have several characters moving along in a story without losing the essence of the plot. To present an engaging world with deep characters all seeking the truth of things. 

Louis de Wohl is quite possibly the greatest saint fiction writer ever. His books have unveiled the lives of these heroic people in a fresh and engaging way. 

I learned from de Wohl how to allow your imagination to run free without losing the essence of the story or the history of the character. My favorite of his novels is Set All Afire, regarding the life of St. Francis Xavier. 

 

 

 

 

 

Elantris
By Brandon Sanderson

These are just a few of the books that inspired me. I could create a list for days! 

What books have you read lately that have inspired you in some way? 


COMING DEC. 1st!!

Tragedy, Despair, and a Snake

Fredrick Nietzsche, one of the leading philosophers of the existential crisis, once wrote in his astounding, however disturbing, novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra about a farmer he came upon with a snake writhing down his throat.

Read More

George Washington's Rules of Civility: 6-10

Gilbert_Stuart_Williamstown_Portrait_of_George_Washington.jpg

In continuing with our dive into the simple rules George Washington lived by I wanted to mention that the reason it's important to read and apply these simple but effective life changes, is to become an authentic gentleman. Not the snobbish, uptight gentleman but a man who seeks to exhume the meekness and charity of a real man. 

6th Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

Have you ever fallen asleep during a class or public presentation? We've all dealt with the unbelievable tired that can kick in but be sure to do what's necessary to stay alert and aware. Get up and stand in the back of the room if you have to. When someone is speaking, undivided attention is the sign of a gentleman and a man of intelligence. 

7th Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.

If you have to change clothes, even just a shirt for us guys, in the wrong context it's clearly bad manners to show off your gut in public. 

8th At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.

Just as Christ Himself allowed the best seat for the most lowly, so too, we ought to allow ourselves to find the most humble seat and rather than draw attention to ourselves with loud chatter, let what you say be so worthy of listening that others are willing to quiet down just to hear it. 

9th Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.

Spitting in public is plain bad manners. If you are camping with some buddies, should you need to spit, do so where others may not walk. 

10th When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.

This is a tough one. The one habit that I find many doing, myself included, is the constant bouncing of your feet while seated. This is one that we should try and irradiate as it speaks to the other that you might have somewhere to be, or you might need to use the restroom.  

The Nature of Theology, Science and Philosophy and their Relationship with One Another

          The nature of theology, the word meaning literally “the science of God”, is a logical discourse about God which depends on the light of divine revelation. With such reliance, theology can never be completely reduced to human definition and logic, still it is received by human beings and so ideas presented in faith cannot be seen as logically contradictory or absurd.[1] It is like science in that it involves concepts, definitions and reasoning. It is unlike science in that the origin of its principles does not come from reason, but from faith.[2] Though autonomous from philosophy, theology is mutually compatible with it in that the use of philosophy to communicate the Gospel message is reciprocally beneficial. Theology seeks by human reason to penetrate into the meaning of the mysteries of faith and to show that faith is consistent with reason.

            Philosophy, which literally means “love of wisdom”, is a continuance of ordinary human knowledge, resorting to common sense experience, through which the mind advances to experience abstract universal ideas.[3] The essential inquiry of philosophy is the ultimate cause of a thing and the final ethical fulfillment of man. Philosophy began with man’s desire to know when wondering at nature and the causes of the world. Through the ordinary and natural human capacity for knowledge, the early philosophers were able to divorce mere sense description from a deeper character and thus were able to practice abstraction and build ideas of ultimate causes, material, formal, efficient and final, in order to fully understand the being.

           Science is identified as the various branches of philosophy, distinguished according to philosophic immateriality. There are many sciences in philosophy, each with different objects of study, a few of which are natural philosophy, psychology, ethics, and metaphysics, which is philosophy in the strict sense of the word. Science can help build a deeper gratitude of things in the natural order by discovering the material reasons for a thing and then rising to deliberate the immaterial reasons for that thing. Ethics, for instance, studies human acts (material) in relation to a human’s ultimate purpose (immaterial).[4]  Modern definitions of science have wrongly been limited to the area of sense knowledge alone, which finds its origins in the skepticism of the 17th Century. Though sense evidence is vital in any science, such evidence must be accompanied by intellectual evidence in order to avoid the limits of sense evidence alone. Intellectual evidence is essential in both philosophy and theology.

         The Catholic Church has always held that philosophy (science) and theology are truly autonomous; however their relationship ought to complement one another. The truths of reason and faith are not to contradict. There are two basic kinds of truth in theology, those truths accessible to reason alone, of which faith aids but is not absolutely necessary to know, such as the existence of God. The other truths are those which are inaccessible to reason alone and require the light of faith, such as the Trinitarian nature of God. However, with the second kind of truth, philosophy can be used to demonstrate that these truths are not absurd.[5]

            Investigation into the ultimate cause of humanity can lead one into a deeper appreciation of the mysteries we contain, such as the relationship between the soul and the body. Still, when philosophical positions are shown to be flawed, the reasonableness of faith is made clear.[6] As the Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy States, “By helping deepen the revealed Word of God, with its character of transcendent and universal truth, philosophy avoids stopping at the level of religious experience.”[7] Philosophy seeks ultimate causes, yet even perfect knowledge renders certain mysteries unattainable. Thus there is a need for another knowledge, that of faith, to cure the limitations of reason alone. The light of faith is that other knowledge which can satisfy the longings of philosophy.

            Aristotle, while formulating his hylomorphic theory which conceives being (ousia) as a compound of matter and form, was based on the examination of the physical world, this analysis led Aristotle to posit the four causes which were necessary to understand a thing. He discovered that at the end of philosophical physics limited, contingent being cannot explain itself; it must have an ordered, unmoved source. Which then led Aristotle to discover the idea of the Prime Mover and that this source must have a mind and be a spirit, thus discovering God Himself. Aristotle used the best means of material science in order to embrace a proper metaphysics, which then led him to the preambles of faith. Thomas Aquinas correctly argues that Aristotle found the Christian God through his natural means.

             Theology, science and philosophy are ultimately man’s search for meaning, fulfillment and the mysteries of being. Theology is unique from the others in that the source is supernatural and given to man through revelation. Philosophy (science) is unique from theology in that it is based on sense experience in the natural world. Due to the similar objectives of theology and philosophy (science), while still holding the proper autonomy, they can aid one another, as two side rails of the same ladder, in guiding man to his ultimate desire and cause.

 

[1] Brian Mullady O.P., class notes on The Necessity of Philosophy for Theology (Cromwell, CT: Holy Apostles College and Seminary, distributed 24 August 2015).

[2] Brian Mullady O.P., class notes on The Necessity of Philosophy for Theology (Cromwell, CT: Holy Apostles College and Seminary, distributed 24 August 2015).

[3] Brian Mullady O.P., class notes on The Necessity of Philosophy for Theology (Cromwell, CT: Holy Apostles College and Seminary, distributed 24 August 2015).

[4] Brian Mullady O.P., class notes on The Necessity of Philosophy for Theology (Cromwell, CT: Holy Apostles College and Seminary, distributed 24 August 2015) parenthesis added.

[5] Brian Mullady O.P., class notes on The Necessity of Philosophy for Theology (Cromwell, CT: Holy Apostles College and Seminary, distributed 24 August 2015).

[6] Ralph McInercy, A First Glance at St. Thomas Aquinas: A Handbook for Peeping Thomists (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990), 62.

[7] Congregation for Catholic Education, Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy (28 January 2011), § 9. 

The Common Ground of Newman, Chesterton and Bruce Lee

In order to effectively evangelize and rationalize beliefs and philosophies between different believers the best route to take is by finding common ground. If a person can see eye-to-eye on one subject, then they can build that relationship into a common bridge to properly discuss other beliefs of importance. This common ground need not be much more than a favorite beer, as from their you can begin discussing the origins of beer and the historical roots of its blessings upon humanity. Which can then grow into a conversation in the roots of morality and the proper use of gifts and talents for the betterment of humanity. The purpose of common ground is to find that which you can agree upon so that from there you can dive into the deeper meaning of life and discuss the more important topics.

Three historical figures who have made an impact on me through their philosophy and lifestyles seem to be from completely different worlds, yet I have found a common ground between them which might help bridge the gap between two very distant shores of belief. Two of these men are Englishmen, one is Chinese. While this might sound like the beginning of a bad joke, I promise you it won't end with a horrible pun. If John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton and Bruce Lee sat down for a philosophical exchange of ideas, I think that the common ground is one that they were all deeply passionate about, that being the problem of specialization.

Specialization, or the fragmenting of the sciences, is a scourge on the modern educational system. We are told to become experts in one area of thought and focus solely on it's progression. John Henry Newman, ever the educator, believed in a system that 'cultivates the intellect'. In his Idea of a University he warns that just "as some organ of the body may be inordinately used and developed, so may memory, or imagination, or the reasoning faculty" Saying that this is not intellectual culture but rather "as the body may be tended, cherished, and exercised with a simple view to its general health, so may the intellect also be generally exercised in order to its perfect state; and this is its cultivation." Newman had sharp, and at times harsh, words for a system which ignores the ideals of a universal language. Not that he believed we should be similar to the 'jack of all trades, master of none' but rather that we have a catholic worldview, one in which we discount no science or field of knowledge. Instead, we have such a mind of foundational philosophy (Newman's definition meaning the virtue of the intellect) that knows how to weigh and grain the acquired knowledge with every other aspect of knowledge.

G.K. Chesterton, the living embodiment of anti-specialization, went so far as to call those who teach specialization or affirm their beliefs within it, heretics. In his essay The Common Man he writes, "Men have always one of two things: either a complete and conscious philosophy or the unconscious acceptance of the broken bits of some incomplete and shattered and often discredited philosophy." Dale Ahlquist says that, "Reading Chesterton is almost a complete education in itself. He informs every discipline" Indeed, Chesterton was more than rough on those who would put man in a jar and some other outside influence tell him what flavor to taste like.

The interesting aspect of the next man is that his worldview comes from a very different place. Bruce Lee was indeed a Daoist. (Many don't know that his mother was Catholic and his father Buddhist).  Yet many of the things Newman and Chesterton taught on the problem of specialization, he taught from the point of martial arts as well as his philosophical teachings. He is most noted for the saying "Be like water", which actually comes from the teachings of Lao-Tsu, the founder of Bruce Lee's beliefs. “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash Be water, my friend.” Bruce Lee was a pioneer in the martial arts arena in that he refused to live by a single martial art. Instead, he preferred to be prepared for all possible outcomes. Whether the fight started on the ground or finished face-to-face he wanted to be able to survive. He believed in obeying the rules without being bound by them.

While "emptying the mind" might surely work in martial arts for a clear vision of what lies before you, in the arena of intellectual cultivation Chesterton and Newman would disagree. Nevertheless, if the round table discussion between these three capable individuals, the common ground might be in that area of holding humanity at a higher level than distinction by science. G.K. Chesterton, Newman and Bruce Lee would surely have disagreed on many subjects of theology and philosophy, however the common ground strategy would have been, I think, effective in this case. Specialization is the opposite of a Catholic worldview. Bruce Lee might have been more Catholic than he realized.