Duality is a mathematical property linking structures through transformations. One of the simplest duality transformations for illustration are the Platonic solids (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron). The simple transformation one performs on these solids is to “exchange” corners and faces.  A cube transforms into an octahedron … which is simple enough to imagine in one’s head. The icosahedron and dodecahedron also exchange through this transform. The tetrahedron, mathematically speaking, is special as it is “self-dual” and under the same transformation is unchanged.

Similarly in emotional contexts, various emotions and other notions are thought dual. The yin-yang of Taoist Chinese thought brings up a host of dual concepts and emotions: good/evil, love/hate, strong/weak, male/female and so on. The eight(seven) cardinal sins and virtues of Evagrius (Pope Gregory) also have a parallel structure.

Tonight, in as part of the Compline service after the second night of reading the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete we said the (famous) “Great Lenten” prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust for power and idle talk.

But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

O God, cleanse Thou me a sinner (12 times, with as many bows, and then again the whole prayer from the beginning throughout, and after that one great prostration)

This prayer also has a duality construct as noted above, but the pairings are not traditional to our ways of thinking. Sloth/chastity, despondency/humility, patience/lust for power, and love/idle talk. One has two options when considering this pairing. One is that the pairing is mistaken that the author, St. Ephrem, did not mean for the connection to be made. However the monastic and meditative life that was much more common in the times in which St. Ephrem lived and for that reason I think that it is more likely than not that the connection was intended.

So with that in mind, consider that one might need to counter those sins of sloth with chastity, despondency with humility, lust for power with patience, and idle talk with love.

Filed under: ChristianityMark O.OrthodoxReligion

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