"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How Much is Required?

"We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right partof us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When he said, 'Be perfect,' He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It maybe hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad" C. S. Lewis,  Mere Christianity

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/cslewis131286.html
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/c_s_lewis.html
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/c_s_lewis.html

Monday, September 5, 2016

Blessed Are Those Who Unconditionally Love

In many churches identifying themselves as Christian there is a great deal of talk about repentance and sin. Repentance, of course, is directly related to the sins we have committed. One must repent of one’s sins. In several churches this is even formalized by Confession, wherein one reveals his or her sins to a priest in a spirit of repentance.
 Repentance, of course, is essentially the action of being sincerely regretful or remorseful for one’s sins. Common synonyms for repentance are: remorse, contrition, penitence, regret, ruefulness, remorsefulness, shame. From the biblical perspective however, repentance additionally takes on the meaning of turning from evil (sin), and determination to turn to the good (God’s revealed will, typically referred to as His Commandments).
The idea is that "each person who turns to God in genuine repentance and faith will be saved." To repent and to convert involves obedience to God's revealed will, placing trust in him rather than our own understanding, turning away from all evil and ungodliness (that which is unlike God Himself).
While all of this is very good and essential, without a clear understanding of God’s will, His Commandments, how does one truly know what to repent from, what he or she ought to Confess?
There are, of course, as a popular guide, the “Ten Commandments.” In the biblical Old Testament Book of Exodus, we read:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
“You shall not kill.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”[1]
The Ten Commandments are so ubiquitous that they have been engraved in stone, by those identifying themselves as Christians, many times since Mount Sinai, even up to more recent times. Yet, as people identifying themselves as Christians they ostensibly identify themselves foremost with the teachings of Christ—hence the appellation “Christian”—found not in the Old Testament, but the New Testament. With this is mind perhaps we should turn to the New Testament to see if Jesus Christ spoke of the Commandments of God, whom He apparently was/is. His being One of the Godhead Himself any commentary He may have made of His Commandments would be of ultimate supremacy.
There are actually various references found in the Gospels that rather clearly state, and in very concise terms, God’s Commandments against which we might measure the “sinfulness” or “righteousness” of our own actions. In the Gospel according to Matthew we read[2]:
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it [literally “just like it’” or “of equal importance”], thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
When Jesus Christ said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” He was literally saying that everything revealed in the books of the Old Testament was summed up in this brief answer he gave to the questioning lawyer.
We can find similar passages in the Gospel according to Mark[3] and that of Luke[4]. It is in the latter Gospel where we find the questioner, ”Seeking to justify himself,” ask, “And who is my neighbor?” While the man’s motives in asking the question may have been less than stellar, Christ’s answer is very important to us all.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” [Notice that in this passage the commandment is one.]
And he said unto him, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
And Jesus answering said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest [obviously a self and church-proclaimed follower of God] that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
“And likewise a Levite [a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi, especially of that part of it that provided assistants to the priests in the worship of God in the Jewish temple], when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
“But a certain Samaritan [loathed by the Jews, the “true” followers of God in their own understanding], as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, ‘Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.’”
“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He that shewed mercy on him.”
Then said Jesus unto him, “Go, and do thou likewise.”
These verses in the Gospel according to Luke clarify other verses flowing from the lips of Christ found in the Gospel. The following are but a small example.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”[5]
A nearly identical passage is found in the Gospel according to Luke (Lk. 6:27-38). And finally,
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”[6]
On the actual state of Christianity “since Christianity became politically respectable,” the writer Wendell Berry, on this matter, says. “They [we] have justified their [our] disobedience on the grounds of the impracticality of obedience, though we have little proof of the practicality of disobedience, and precious few examples of obedience. The implication invariably has been that for a few feckless worshippers of God to obey Christ’s commandments may be alright, but in practical matters… we will obey Caesar.”[7]
So, the commandment against which we measure sin and, thus, the need for repentance, is crystal clear. All that is actually left is for those of us who identify ourselves as “Christian” [“For don’t we know that everybody named Rose smells like a rose?”][8] is to embrace the benchmark set by God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

[1] Ex. 20:2-17.
[2] Mt. 22:34-40.
[3] Mk. 12:28-34.
[4] Lk. 10:27.
[5] Mt. 5:38-45.
[6] Jn. 14:15.
[7] Wendell Berry, Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Christ’s Teachings About Love, Compassion & Forgiveness (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2005) pp. 5-6.
[8] Ibid. p. 4.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Life Determined to Fail

Some, indeed, are grateful to discover a friend.
For such, a fellow soul who understands what it is to carry the burden of life,
hope and heart,
a soul who cares and even looks beyond the countless blemishes to see the imprint of God, is a gift to be cherished as a great treasure. For do not all know that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Alas, not.

What of the deformed soul that, even with cunning, returns friendship with treachery?
What of the soul who is determined to redefine the kindness of friendship as though it were an outrage ? Kindness as malignancy.

Think such, that a friend be no less than an impending danger,
one who shall surely bleed the self-desire from you,
for such, all know, are able to draw near the center--the heart.

But impoverished folk, those who hold their fearful, selfish being in deaths' grip at the center of all,
know that the friend has the power, once given, to approach the heart, (God knows what they may wrought)
while a heart, to such poor folk, could certainly be no more then a target to destroy one's self affection.

But pity, I say, such a soul so empty and bereft of any life, any hope, any love.
Love such a one for his desperate need, though unseen.
For if we do not love, this kind dies alone for all eternity, and we shall surely follow.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Face to Face

Books and plays to build desire,
Garner hope, a dream, and stoke that fire,
Place flesh upon a storied promise,
Sine children spy we another auspice.

Extinguished stars and starlets played their parts,
demonstrated their practices and skillfull arts,
A character to play, though few before would truly walk,
Drama no man dare mock,
For we do sigh, and weep and groan,
For that love which we have never known.

A trick? A fable? A Fairytale?
To comfort and defer the hunger, Yet a faint fragrance we insatiably inhale,
The story intended to pacify,
We grasp and hope for breath to live and die.

But like that of Homer and Ulysses,
tails of Shakespeare and Aphrodite,
All grow old for all are but story,
Sweet to the ear, but no more than fantasy.

Union a pleasant substitute, and children grow,
Shall we try once more, be tossed to and fro?
Is war and hate our only honed skill,
And self-esteem our singular unsatisfying thrill?
Is love a story, a phantom dream,
And His death held in such low esteem?

But late, when we were all but spent,
drew others, trembling, doubtful, to make the long ascent.
A chance, hearts ready to be once more dashed,
The others too, their hope prepared to return to ash.

A chance, a moment, a time in space,
We find His children, love waiting, face to face.

Face to Face, by MachiavelliCro

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Love Revealed

Love Revealed

 know that I have a tendency to “discover” those things that are already obvious and known to all others. Nevertheless, better that I “discover” them late than not at all. 

There are all sorts of details common to any love relationship—tender new love, loving marriage, a healthy family, or a healthy, loving parish. In the marriage or budding relationship, we may speak of love expressed by “special little things” done by each for the other. Such things bring a special gratitude to the moment as they convey one’s devotion and love. For example, perhaps one buys the other flowers for no particular special occasion, or opens the door for the other at every opportunity. And there are certainly counterparts to these in the family and the parish.

Yet, ultimately, enduring and genuine love is not communicated through these acts. As nice as flowers or a card may be, they can never, by themselves, convince another of unflagging devotion. Genuine love, the sort that is self-sacrificial, enduring, genuine, and rises above our own reward, is conveyed moment by moment, in our every-day interaction. The tone of voice we speak in, the look in our eyes and upon our face, the timbre of our voice in common communication, our deportment in every instance of interaction—these all communicate far more than truckloads of flowers come special delivery. If we do not communicate love at this level where we live, all the “special little things” are unconvincing. This applies to the parish community as much as the marriage. Such self-sacrificial love is uncommon.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
I     I     I
Private notes of a priest, October 2001

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Mystery Divine

 must always remember that I come to the Divine Liturgy not to receive, though I do receive, but rather to give, though I have nothing to offer. How can the vessel offer anything to the potter but the utility it was crafted for? Yet, what little I have, my love, I am compelled by my heart to pour out to God, which is the very act of worship, an act of self-emptying from poverty. Worship, of course, is not something our Beloved demands. It is only and simply the natural response of a grateful heart toward the Giver of unconditional and infinite love. “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest…. I tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out (Lk. 19:37-40).

This, this unwarranted love offered to me, is what compels my heart to prepare as I may in my poverty, and move me to action, for the moment out of time which is the Divine Liturgy and the receiving—the receiving of God Himself in the Holy Mysteries. Certainly when I expect a beloved and eminent dignitary to come and stay in our home, I occupy myself making all my earthly, material things as lovely as possible, cleaning every space, putting in order every little detail. Though my home is humble, as much as it is in my power, I make it fit for my Guest. This is nothing more than a labor of honor and respect, a labor of love, a joy in action. 

In like manner do I strive to prepare the temple of my soul to receive our Most Beloved, Most Highly Exalted and Honored Guest. He deigns to dwell within me and so I do what I can in prayer, silence, Confession, and fasting, as much as is within my feeble flesh to do, to prepare a stable where He may dwell.

When the moment of unspeakable Mystery finally arrives, I do not approach as though I were about to buy my weeks groceries, mind scattered, concerned for every worldly matter, but rather I approach in fear and trembling knowing that a stable is no fit place for the King of kings. But at the moment, at that very instant another great Mystery beyond comprehension is revealed—Love is everything, Divine Love does not require a majestic palace to be exalted, and God, the Divine, is Love.
Love is everything. “Love is the fulfillment of the Law” (Romans 13:10). “Faith, hope, and love… the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). 

By His Grace, by His indwelling, by His humility, may this Mystery take seed in my heart and I learn to have such love for my neighbor.

Private notes of a priest, September 2001