Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Dormition Fast


There is a perception that we should fast when we want something, as though the act of fasting somehow appeases God, and seeing us “suffer” gets Him to grant our request. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is not our fasting that pleases God, it is the fruits of our fast (provided we fast in the proper mind set, and do not merely diet) that please Him. We fast, not to get what we want, but to prepare ourselves to receive what God wants to give us. 

The purpose of fasting is to bring us more in line with another Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and away from their sister Martha, who in the famous passage was “anxious and troubled about many things.” Fasting is intended to bring us to the realization of “the one thing needful.” It is to help us put God first and our own desires second, if not last. As such it serves to prepare us to be instruments of God’s will, as with Moses in his flight from Egypt and on Mt. Sinai, as well as our Lord’s fast in the wilderness. Fasting turns us away from ourselves and toward God. In essence it helps us become like the Theotokos, an obedient servant of God, who heard His word and kept it better than anyone else has or could.

From Pravmir- http://t.co/rgNU6a3M5M

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quietude

Not many of you should be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.  In many things, we all stumble. Anyone who does not stumble in word is perfect, even able to bridle the whole body!   (Ja 3: 1-2)

Remaining quiet is hard for a proud person, I know this from my own spiritual struggles.  Pride convinces us that we have something of importance to say; something that people desire or perhaps even need to hear.  It is  a rare thing however that the proud person's perception and reality match.  It is more likely that the proud person needs others to hear about his self perceived righteousness.

The passion of pride attacks the mind in particular. Pride is the result of blindness to the reality of who God is and who we are.  According to our fathers among the Saints, pride is a disordered passion.  "A disordered passion is an excessive feeling or appetite that goes beyond what is reasonable. Passions are a disturbance of the soul contrary to nature, and disobedient to reason" - Clement of Alexandria.  In other words, passions are the direct result of an unbridled appetite and delusional fantasies.

Few have been more successful in dealing with the passions as the dessert fathers. Fortunately, they have left us with many successful cures for pride and its delusions.  One of the cures is 'quietude'.  Evagrious the Monk said: "cut out 
the desire for many things out your heart.  By doing so you prevent your mind from being scattered and thus your quietude from being lost."  According to the consensus of these fathers it is a lack of knowing  God, and a desire for many things to fill that void that prompts us towards delusion.  Consequently, these delusions result in our expulsion of a great deal of hot air to our own demise.


This quietude can be quite a challenge to someone brought up with a Western mindset.  In the West we have come to embrace the concept that most things can be cured by education and thus by much talking.  In this way of thinking it is the verbal transference of information that saves us.  In fact, most folks in the West attend church to be educated, or to use the proper word, to be edified.

By contrast the earlier Eastern and premodern approach accepts the fact that it is by silence that we are most edified.  It is by a quiet but constant lookout for our pride, and by quietly turning ourselves around-metanoia that we are saved. I have learned this  much, when I want to speak, it's probably best to SHUT UP!  And if I must speak, first consider God and my delusions of pride, as well as what I really want to obtain by speaking.  Only then consider speaking, or then again perhaps not.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Becoming Orthodox


As time passes, I find that most of those clich├ęs that I read about when considering Orthodoxy are actually truer than I ever thought possible.  I am specifically referring to that feeling that one gets when it becomes impossible to fit Orthodoxy into a properly shaped box. It feels like a ride in a whirlpool.  Yes, one does travel the same ocean year after year, yet, like a whirlpool it is to some degree different each time one comes around, faster and deeper each time. 

One of the consequences of this forever new kind of experience is that one is left feeling like a student and a novice, always striving to figure out how to work out ones own salvation.  I am learning to appreciate this aspect of Orthodoxy because it beats down my pride, and turns my eyes towards the log in my own eye rather than the spec in my neighbor's eye.  This single difference is large enough to create an impassible gap between my Orthodox experience as a Christian and my heterodox experience.  Without a doubt, my daily concern is the healing of my wounded soul and body.

This does not mean that Orthodoxy is mainly introspective, far from it.  The fact is that nothing brings salvation to the world as effectively and powerfully as one who is a well healed and oozes the fragrance of God. Consequently, it is a given that the best thing one can do for the salvation (healing) of others is to become well healed oneself.

Secondly, I find that Orthodoxy forces my faith in the Lord to be ever growing.  I cannot be satisfied as I once was telling myself that I have been declared righteous.  it is true as they say that you see your sinfulness more clearly with each passing day. It is like seeing one's own spiritual birth defects laid out in an ever expanding field. Thus, I am enabled to see how I fall short moment by moment.  My only help then is in the mercy and grace of our Triune God who loves to give mercy.

"Teach your heart to follow what your tongue is saying to others.  Men try to appear excellent in preaching, but they are far less excellent in practicing what they preach."

Poeman the Monk