Category Archives: The Church

To Whom Much Is Given

“If we as Orthodox Christians cannot have unity of heart, soul and mind, how can we be surprised at or judge others who do not have the spiritual riches given to us for our salvation in the Church? The Lord said: “But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Mt 5:22). I would submit that it is a far greater sin for Orthodox to engage in party spirit, whether it be on the level of party politics or ethnic-jurisdictional differences or within jurisdictions, which seminary or monastery is “more truly orthodox,” than it is for Jewish Israelis and Moslem Arabs to be killing one another with external weapons of violence. “He who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).
-Mother Raphaela (via In Communion)

Advertisements

Christ Is Not a Text

“No one profits by the Gospels unless he is first in love with Christ.  For Christ is not a text but a living Person, and He abides in His Body, the Church.” 
-Fr. Georges Florovsky

(via Fr. Ted’s Blog)

With the Fire Divine

Aflame in thy heart, O Laurence, with the fire divine, thou burntest
away the fire of passions utterly, O firm staff of athletes, O thou
God-bearing Martyr; and thou in truth while contesting didst cry with faith:
Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.

Love Thinketh What?

“Do not regard the feelings of a person who speaks to you about his neighbor disparagingly, but rather say to him: “Stop, brother! I fall into graver sins every day, so how can I criticize him?” In this way you will achieve two things: you will heal yourself and your neighbor with one plaster. This is one of the shortest ways to the forgiveness of sins; I mean, not to judge. ‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.’ (Luke 6:37)”

-St. John Climacus

“If we have true love with sympathy and patient labor, we shall not go about scrutinizing our neighbor’s shortcomings. As it is said, “Charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), and again, “Love thinketh no evil… hides everything, etc.”(1 Cor.13:5,6) As I said, if we have true love, that very love should screen anything of this kind, as did the saints when they saw the shortcomings of men.Were they blind? Not at all! But they simply would not let their eyes dwell on sins.”

-Saint Dorotheos of Gaza

“My children, avoid criticism — a very great sin. God is grieved whenever we criticize and loathe people. Let us concern ourselves only with our own faults — for these let us feel pain; let us criticize ourselves and then we will find mercy and grace from God.”

-Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos

(via Our Garden of Virtues)

The Treasure House within You

Be at peace with your own soul
then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

Enter eagerly into the treasure
house that is within you,

And you will see the things that are in heaven,
for there is but one single entry to them both.

The ladder that leads to the Kingdom
is hidden within your soul…

Dive into yourself and in your soul
and you will discover the stairs
by which to ascend.

-St. Isaac of Syria

He Needs True Human Beings

Steve Robinson over at Pithless  Thoughts wrote something yesterday that really struck me–right in the solar plexus:

“God does not need our ministries and false humility and our greatness. He needs true human beings to live and die in Christ as a witness to the resurrection, and to be willing to be an obscure, no-name person in someone’s distant past who, because of a glimmer of faith, did one small thing in the name of God that, generations later, saved the very cosmos.”

God does not need my ministries and false humility and my greatness.

Ouch.

This is difficult to put into words–not because I’m embarrassed, but because I’m not sure how to speak of these thoughts. For most of my Christian life I have striven to be something. A leader, yes, in various roles. A nice guy. A potential mate. But it goes deeper than that. It seems to me now that I’ve spent my energy as a follower of Christ in trying to rise above my humanity, to be more than what I am or can be. Looking back over my experiences in the evangelical world, I’m surprised by how much loathing for people there is. For all the talk of love for others (where you can find it), there seems to be a general disdain for the human species under the surface–reverberations of a theology that denies or forgets the goodness of God’s creation. We are not dung. I don’t believe that.

Of course, I believe we should improve how we act, speak, think. But in my experience, such tasks easily become an external effort, as if putting on a costume, acting the part, rather than simply becoming those virtues, as dye stains wool. We feel empowered by the costume and begin to believe it’s who we really are, although no transformation has really taken place. We’re just wearing a set of clothes made for the stage, not real life. And when the gig is up, we feel disillusioned, like walking away.

The trouble is that one can only perform for so long. Sooner or later, the lines we’ve rehearsed to craft our false image become transparent, no longer able to conceal what’s really in our hearts, how we live, judge, hate.  We may try a different role, to craft another persona, but the same end is inevitable. All this manifests itself in cycles of zeal and piety, self-loathing and despair, wash, rinse, repeat. Sometimes excited and other times apathetic. Trying to be something for God and winding up resentful of ministry obligations, feeling the vastness of the chasm between who I am and who I have projected myself to be, the sickening gravity of standing at the edge of the abyss. Can you relate?

I hate the cycle. And I’ve realized at the heart of it is pride–the belief that I am better than I am, better than you, my wife, my friends, my family, neighbors, strangers–whether I realize it or not. I’ve found that the first in that list is the seed of all the others and is a stumbling block to true repentance. How could I have done that? I should be better than that. But you know what? I’m not. And I can’t make myself better by putting on good deeds and attitudes and leadership roles as if the clothes make the man. I’ve done that for too long. It doesn’t work.

I think at the heart of this, besides pride, is impatience. The unwillingness to accept who I am at present and to trust God to make me who I will one day become, by His grace and mercy. I have a tendency to short-change the process. It goes something like this: I read a few spiritual books, I have some great conversations with friends, and maybe I pray consistently for a week or two. Then, feeling puffed up with spiritual goodness, I do one of two things, if not both: think better of myself than I ought, and take on a spiritual project, believing there to be a readiness in my heart that does not yet exist. I want to do it all now. And I want to do the jobs I admire whether it’s good for me or not. And if I’m honest, sometimes that doesn’t become a question until the damage is already done.

All of that spiritual playacting isn’t being a human. Putting on someone else’s clothes or armor or job title won’t bring us to our true selves, our personhood, however much we admire what they do.

I want to live and not analyze or evaulate everything.  There’s a time and place for self-examination. But I fear too many people I know, me included, approach their life as if shopping for costumes. We turn away from what we truly are to embrace a self as wooden as the floor in my house. That’s not transformation.

I’m tired of trying to “get ahead.” I want to make mistakes and repent and be forgiven. I want to be wise and open and loving, not defensive or detached by self-focus and inherently limited analysis. I want to be my true self, deep in my soul, my heart, in my speech and actions, however long that takes to get there–not a manufactured, calculated facade (i.e. delusion). I want to live. That’s it. I want to live in the present moment and become better by the grace and mercy of God through everyday circumstances. I want to be healed. I want to be human.

All of this grossly falls short of describing the issue at hand. I’m no teacher, and I’m not a wise man. But I think for the first time, I almost “get” that oft-quoted proverb: “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Almost.

Thanks, Steve.

The Way of the Church Is Love

edler_paisios“I once met a theologian who was extremely pious, but who had the habit of speaking to the (secular) people around him in a very blunt manner; his method penetrated so deeply that it shook them very severely. He told me once: “During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady.” But the way that he said it, crushed her. “Look”, I said to him, “you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads, not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also.”

“Let’s not stone our fellow-man in a so-called “Christian manner.” The person who – in the presence of others – checks someone for having sinned (or speaks in an impassioned manner about a certain person), is not moved by the Spirit of God; he is moved by another spirit.

“The way of the Church is LOVE; it differs from the way of the legalists. The Church sees everything with tolerance and seeks to help each person, whatever he may have done, however sinful he may be.” -Elder Paisios

(via Our Garden of Virtues)