I have no enemies, only cruel friends …

The words of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ: 

But I say to you that whoever gets angry with his brother without cause will be liable to the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Empty-head!’ will be liable to the council. But whoever says, ‘ fool!’ will be liable to the fiery hell. Therefore if you offer your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go, first be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Make friends with your adversary quickly, while you are on the road with him, lest your adversary hand you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Assuredly I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. Mat 5:22-26

My teen brought the prayer below home from church school several months ago, but I just read it this weekend, at a providential time. I can’t verify the authorship for certain, but it seems likely it came from the 20th century saint  Nikolai Velimirovich, The New Chrysostom, Bishop of Ochrid and Zhicha. He was a man of God who faced many challenges in life and may have had a certain hardness of heart at some point.  But in walking along the Way towards his salvation, God gave him opportunities to rise above the world and free himself from his worldly passions; the Church recognizes that he chose to accept those gifts of grace and freedom. God extends the same to each of us.

A Prayer for One’s Enemies – attributed to St Nicolai of Zica

 Bless my enemies, O Lord.  Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than does an unhunted animal, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord Even I bless them and do not curse them. Continue reading

Correcting One Another V: “Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It”

Representative Rebecca Hamilton is a 16-year member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and blogs at Public Catholic. 

She says, “I was first elected in 1980, served three terms, then left office when I had my first child. Before I was elected, I was an ardent pro abortion activist. I helped found the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and, during the early 1970s, was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma.

“I was re-elected in 2002. I had experienced a powerful religious conversion which changed me concerning issues of life. I had also converted to the Catholic Church. The same people in the same House District who had elected me as a pro-choice advocate graciously re-elected me as a pro-life Catholic.”

In her post of 6 June, she writes

It’s not a complicated issue to me, and it has almost nothing to do with what marriage is not. It’s about what marriage is. What marriage is begins with the law. Marriage under the law is and should continue to be a union freely entered into by one man and one woman. But legal definitions are just the scaffolding we use to support the social structures of how we order our lives. The actual edifice, the reality of marriage as it is lived, is something much more complex and important than that legal definition can impart.

We focus our national attention on the definition of marriage under the law. We wear out our keyboards writing about it and revile one another over our positions on it. But despite the accusations and counter-accusations that season our debate, we ignore the home truths of marriage in this country today. The truth is, marriage has been a mess for quite some time. And homosexuals weren’t the ones who messed it up.

Homosexuals didn’t set off the epidemic of divorce in this country. Homosexuals didn’t create the millions of feral children who spend most of their time alone, raising themselves on video games, drugs and interactions with their peers. Homosexuals don’t cheat on our spouses. Homosexuals don’t break into our homes and yell and curse at our families. They aren’t the cause of the rising number of unwed births and the global pandemic of abortion. We did these things. Marriage is a mess and it was heterosexuals who messed it up. …

Read the rest at Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It.

“We need the Holy Spirit …

…  to understand the Holy Spirit.”

One of my GoodReads “now reading” books is Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in Orthodox Tradition.” The author is Fr. John Oliver, a priest of the Antiochian Archdiocese serving St. Elizabeth the New Martyr mission in Tennessee.  I found Fr. John through his warm, yet profound podcast series ” Hearts and Minds”  at Ancient Faith Radio.

In the book’s introduction, he gives us this “most fitting plea” to receive the Holy Spirit from St. Symeon the New Theologian (942-1022), found in Hymns of Divine Love ( Denville NY, Dimension, 1976).

Come, true light. Come, eternal life. Come, hidden mystery. Come, nameless treasure.

Come, ineffable reality. Come, inconceivable person. Come, endless bliss. Come, non-setting sun.

Come, infallible expectation of all those who must be saved. Come O Powerful One, who always creates and recreates and transforms by Your will alone.

Come, O invisible and totally intangible and impalpable. Come, you who always remain motionless and each moment move completely and come to us, asleep in hades, O you above the heavens.

Come, O beloved Name and repeated everywhere, but of whom it is absolutely forbidden for us to express the existence or to know the Nature.

Come, eternal joy. Come, non-tarnishing crown. Come, great purple of the great king our God.

Come, crystalline cincture, studded with precious stones. Come, inaccessible sandal. Come, royal purple.

Come, truly sovereign right hand. Come, you who my miserable soul has desired and desires.

Come, You the Lonely, to the lonely, since You see I am lonely. Come, You who have separated me from everything and made me solitary in this world.

Come, You who have become Yourself desire in me, who have made me desire You, You the absolutely inaccessible one.

Come, my breath and my life! Come, consolation of my poor soul! Come, my joy, my glory, my endless light!

Orthodoxia: Does it matter what we believe?

From Evangeliona weekly Bulletin of Orthodox Christian faith that is made available to the Churches of the Archbishopric of Good Hope, the issue of 27 May 2012:

Does It Matter What We Believe?

We live in an era that tends to downplay the importance of religious dogma; people often speak about preferring “spirituality” to religion and insisting on the need for right belief is somehow seen as intolerant or judgmental of others. For the Orthodox Church, such attitudes pose a particular challenge. While we need to be tolerant of the beliefs of others, we cannot betray the truth of the Gospel to which our Fathers in the faith devoted their lives. Continue reading

Phronema III: Is Conscience the Cornerstone?

Phronema is a Greek term that is used in Orthodox theology to refer to mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia — Praxis being defined as the overall lifestyle of members of the Orthodox Church.)  Attaining phronema is regarded as the first step toward theosis, the state of glorification which is (at least as far as possible in this world) a recovery of the original nature of man made in the image and likeness of God.

Phronema refers to “the completely self-sacrificial trust and faith in religious and ethical truths… from the voice of God…. an unshakeable certainty about the truth of Faith… undiminished and vibrant throughout life, a continually verified daily experience,” “a growing feeling for and understanding of God’s and the practice of Orthodox piety—Orthodox Worship and behavior.”  The phronema is vested in tradition “against all heresies and schisms of all times”. The “mind of the Fathers” is also termed phronema as is the “mind of the Church” and “the mind of Christ.”      (adapted from OrthodoxWiki.org)

Firstly, we must clarify what ‘phronema’ is, being of course the most central presupposition that defines the position and behavior of the theologian in his particular time. The term ‘phronema’ is of pre-Christian origin, and can be found in a broad range of Greek literature. Continue reading

Correcting One Another IV: Damned with “Faith” Alone?

From a transcribed interview between Fr. Thomas Hopko and host Kevin Allen from The Illumined Heart podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, 30 September 2007:

Fr. Thomas Hopko: “But let’s make another scenario. Suppose you have a friend who has never been baptized, and he says, “Please baptize me.” And you say, “Okay, I’m going to run and get some water.” While you are gone the guy dies. Is it too late? Does he go to hell? Some people would say, “Yes, God arranged for him never to get baptized so he could send him to hell because he is among the damned.” That would not be the Orthodox teaching.

“St. Gregory the Theologian said a long time ago that desire would count before God as the baptism, itself. He spoke about the baptism of desire, the baptism of fire. In other words, God is not an ogre, and He is not a machine, pagan-type God, saying, “Not baptized; go to hell.” You could be baptized, chrismated, and serve the Divine Liturgy and go to hell. John Chrysostom said hell would probably be filled with guys wearing porphyria [purple], the stole—pastors. Continue reading

Phronema II: Sexuality in its proper context

From OrthodoxWiki.org: Phronema is a Greek term that is used in Orthodox theology to refer to mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia).”

– From Celibacy in Context by Maximos Davies in First Things, December 2002:  Simply put, every single Christian who is capable of love is called to discipline that love through the asceticism of celibacy. Just as every Christian is called to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so also every Christian is called to be celibate. Seen in its true context of asceticism, celibacy ceases to be a legal requirement for a small section of the Christian faithful and is revealed instead as an aspect of the universal vocation of all believers. 

Maximos Davies is a monk of Holy Resurrection Monastery, a monastic community under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine Catholic (Ruthenian) Eparchy of Van Nuys, California. He penned this wonderful short essay that explains a piece of the Eastern Christian phronema, the mindset of Eastern Christianity. As a monk, he is celibate, yet in spite of this ( or is it because of this?) he understands the right thinking of the Eastern Church on the expression of sexuality that has been largely forgotten in modern society, even among some of the most recognized class of celibates, the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Here we come to another important insight within the pastoral tradition of Eastern Christianity. Celibacy is not primarily an individual calling. In the first place it is a vocation for the whole Church. Only secondarily is this vocation realized in individual lives. It follows that celibacy cannot be authentic if it is attempted individually. Celibacy can only be lived in a real way if it is seen as a shared way of life. For the Christian East, celibacy is lived corporately and within the context of communal asceticism. Continue reading

Phronema

From OrthodoxWiki.org: Phronema is a Greek term that is used in Orthodox theology to refer to mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia).”

One of the things that Christians in the West have trouble understanding are the differing ways in which the Orthodox Catholic Church (the official name of what is popularly called Eastern Orthodox or Orthodoxy) thinks about, talks about, and lives out its apostolic heritage. Even the most anti-Papal western Christians live ontologically within a worldview that came to them through the Church of Rome and Western European culture. The most virulent anti-ecumenist in the Orthodox world also lives bound by his inheritance. And each one embraces less than the whole.

Take note — I’m not saying here that the West completely misses the mark; nor am I saying that the Eastern Christian Church can in no way benefit from Western insights; nor am I saying is that these differences make Christians of the West and the East into “apples and oranges”.

Christians all acknowledge that Jesus was both perfect God and perfect man, the Word of God who revealed the Mind of God in human terms. The Gospels reveal a divine phronema of openness and fearlessness.

The “wealthiest” Christian seeks to understand the other brothers and sisters in Christ, the universal Christian foundations of the first thousand years, and the unfortunate divergences of the second Christian millennium. On the other hand, the impoverished heart — the “whitewashed sepulcher” — is content to remain willfully ignorant or willfully dismissive.

From time to time, we’ll think about what it might mean to hold the right faith and practice it in the right manner. God grant that I become ever more willing to be made uncomfortable, yet without fear, in opening myself to the fullness of Truth.

Correcting One Another III

Thoughts from St. John of Kronstadt, archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church during the 19th century, canonized in the 1960’s:

“If you wish to correct the faults of anyone, do not think of trying to do so solely by your own means:  you would only do harm by your own vices, for instance pride and the irritability arising from it; but cast thy burden upon the Lord, and pray with all your heart that God himself will enlighten the heart and mind of that man. If He sees that your prayer breathes love, and that it really comes from the depths of your heart, He will undoubtedly fulfill it, and you will soon see, from the change that has taken place in him for whom you prayed, that it is the work of the most high God.”

From the book Spirtual Counsels: Select Passages from ‘My Like in Christ’

Fitted to the Bishop as to Strings of the Harp …

Ignatius of Antioch, martyred in Rome around the year 110  A.D. was among the Apostolic Fathers, served as the third Bishop of Antioch [St. Peter being recognized as the first], and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.

These letters, dating only a few decades from the deaths of the apostles themselves and prior to the establishment of the New Testament canon, are among the wealth of writings available from the earliest presbyters of the Church. They help reveal the continuity of today’s Orthodox Church with that received from the faith and practice of the apostles.

From The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians:

“Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And do you, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God. Continue reading