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

We are ‘a peculiar people’ …

From Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Norman, Oklahoma:

“The maintaining and practicing of Orthodox customs and traditions may, at times, seem antiquated and out of place in 21st Century America. Their importance cannot be overemphasized, however. As Christians we are in the world but not of the world. We are, as the scriptures, say, “a peculiar people”. We are a holy people and a royal priesthood. We are pilgrims in this world. We live on earth but were made for heaven.

Orthodoxy is a lifestyle – a lifestyle that is, by definition, out of step and in conflict with the broken and fallen world. Traditional Orthodox piety and traditions shape and mold us; their commonality ties us to all those who have gone before us. They are aids to the formation of an Orthodox mind. They are gifts from the past, alive in the present. They create a living trust that helps us to transcend time and space. These holy traditions help us to remember that all members of the Body of Christ, past and present, are inextricably bound up together. The Church is One. Our holy Orthodox traditions and customs are blessed treasures to be honored, respected and lived.”

A Reflection on Jesus the “Samaritan”

From the Gospel of John:

Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father–God.”

Jesus as the SamaritanTherefore Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would have loved Me, for I came forth and have come from God; nor have I come from Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand what I say? Because you are unable to hear My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you desire to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar, and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.   Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say well that You are a Samaritan, and You have a demon?”

Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.  And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks it and who judges.  Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall by no means experience death.” (8:41-51, MKJV)

From Sermon 171.2 of the blessed Augustine:

“In this Samaritan the Lord Jesus Christ wanted us to understand himself. ‘Samaritan’ you see, means ‘guardian.’  . . .  He could have answered, ‘I am not a Samaritan, and I do not have a devil.’ What he did answer was ‘It is not I who have a devil.’ What he answered, he refuted; what he kept quiet about, he confirmed. He denied he had a devil, knowing himself to be the expeller of devils; he did not deny that he was the guardian of the weak.”

Our Lord was especially hard on those who claimed to know God and do His will, but through their actions and attitudes, revealed only their own hubris. Jesus never denied the needy. Rather, he sacrificed himself over and over to heal, to feed, to comfort, and to save.

Are we not all needy?  The more I grow in Christ, the more my hubris grows, and therefore my need increases.

Will Christ ever deny us in our need? He did not deny that he was brother to the outcast and the despised. Those He did deny during His earthly sojourn were those who denied Him and who denied mercy and comfort to His people, His “sheep.”

The prayer of a servant:

Father God, what a struggle it is to sacrifice myself! I cling to my selfish ambitions, my indulgences, and my prejudices like a man shipwrecked clings to his float.  I have yet to share my own energies hand-in-hand with those in most need. Forgive me when I boast and prattle, failing to serve you and your beloved with sweat and true sacrifice. Help me to cooperate with Your grace in becoming the Good Samaritan as did Jesus.

In the name of Jesus Christ, grant me, Father God, your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“The Light that makes man joyful…”

By the Elder Porphyrios, a monk of the Orthodox Church and Mount Athos (1906-1991):

“This is the way we should see Christ. He is our friend, our brother; He is whatever is good and beautiful. He is everything. Yet, He is still a friend and He shouts it out, “You’re my friends, don’t you understand that? We’re brothers. I don’t hold hell in my hands. I am not threatening you. I love you. I want you to enjoy life together with me.”

Christ our JoyChrist is Everything. He is joy, He is life, He is light. He is the true light who makes man joyful, makes him soar with happiness; makes him see everything, everybody; makes him feel for everyone, to want everyone with him, everyone with Christ. Love Christ and put nothing before His Love. Christ is Everything. He is the source of life, the ultimate desire, He is everything. Everything beautiful is in Christ. Somebody who is Christ’s must love Christ, and when he loves Christ he is delivered from the Devil, from hell and from death.”

The prayer of a servant:

O Lord Jesus, today and everyday, help me to understand you more intimately, to see you more clearly, to follow you more faithfully, to love you more completely, and to share in your joy in God the Father. Son of David, have mercy on me, the sinner, and abide with me. Amen.

Elder Porphyrios was loved and revered as a confessor and spiritual father. Gifted through the grace of God, he was able to see deeply into the hearts of those who came to him for counsel. The book, “Wounded by Love – The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios”, Denise Harvey (Publisher), 2005 is available at Skete.com and Amazon.com. Read more from the book at http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/elderporphyrios_dispositions.aspx

Have Christians become deaf to joy?

[Jesus said] I am on my way to You. But I say these things while I am still in the world, so that my followers will have the same complete joy that I do.         John 17:13

Christ in GloryIt is the Lord’s Day, the Eighth Day, the day beyond the Sabbath’s rest, where we enter the Messianic Feast of the New Jerusalem and are united with our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ as we receive the True Food and Drink, the Body and Blood of Jesus. Rejoice!

From St. Simeon the New Theologian, Saint of the Eastern Church, We Awaken in Christ’s Body:

“For if we genuinely love Him, we wake up inside Christ’s body where all our body, all over, every most hidden part of it, is realized in joy as Him, and He makes us utterly real, and everything that is hurt, everything that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged, is in Him transformed and recognized as whole, as lovely, and radiant in His light he awakens as the Beloved in every last part of our body.”

FromThe Journals of Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

“The source of false religion is the inability to rejoice or, rather, the refusal of joy, whereas joy is absolutely essential because it is without any doubt the fruit of God’s presence. One cannot know that God exists and not rejoice. Only in relation to joy are the fear of God and humility correct, genuine, fruitful… The first, the main source of everything is ‘my soul rejoices in the Lord…’ The fear of sin does not save from sin. Joy in the Lord saves. A feeling of guilt or moralism does not liberate from the world and its temptations. Joy is the foundation of freedom, where we are called to stand. Where, how, when has this tonality of Christianity become distorted, dull—or rather, where, how, why have Christians become deaf to joy? … People continually come and ask for advice… And some weakness or false shame keeps me from telling each of them, ‘I don’t have any advice to give you.I have only weak, shaky, but, for me, unremitting joy. Do you want it?” No, they do not. They want to talk about ‘problems’ and chat about ‘solutions.’ No, there was no greater victory of the devil in the world than this ‘psychologized’ religion. There is anything and everything in psychology. One thing is unthinkable, impossible: Joy!…

“I think God will forgive everything except lack of joy; when we forget that God created the world and saved it. Joy is not one of the ‘components’ of Christianity, it’s the tonality of Christianity that penetrates everything—faith and vision. Where there is no joy, Christianity becomes fear and therefore torture. We know about the fallen state of the world only because we know about its glorious creation and its salvation by Christ… This world is having fun; nevertheless it’s joyless because joy (different from what is called ‘fun’) can be only from God, only from on high—not only joy of salvation, but salvation as joy. To think—every Sunday we have a banquet with Christ, at His table, in His Kingdom; then we sink into our problems, into fear and suffering. God saved the world through joy: ‘…you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy…’

A Prayer of St. Symeon the New Theologian:

You, O Christ, are the Kingdom of Heaven; You, O Christ, are the Kingdom of Heaven; You, the land promised to the meek; You, the meadowland of paradise; You, the hall of the celestial banquet; You, the ineffable bridal chamber; You, the table set for all, You, the bread of life; You, the unheard-of drink; You, both the urn for the water and the life-giving water; You, moreover, the inextinguishable lamp for each one of the saints; You, the garment and the crown and the One who bestows the crowns; You, the joy and rest; You, the delight and glory; You, the gladness and mirth.

And Your grace, the grace of the Spirit of all sanctity, will shine like the sun in all the saints; And You, the unapproachable Sun, will shine in their midst; and all will shine brightly, according to the measure of their faith, their asceticism, their hope and their love, their purification, and their illumination by Your Spirit. Amen.

Listen to a broadcast/podcast about St. Symeon entitled “That your Joy May Be Full…” at http://www.myocn.net/index.php/CRTL/That-Your-Joy-May-Be-Full.html