"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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Three Questions

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently.
In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.

But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that, one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore, in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians.

Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people the King most needed were his councilors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary.

To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit’s cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his body-guard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.
The King went up to him and said: “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important, and need my first attention?”

The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.

“You are tired,” said the King, “let me take the spade and work awhile for you.”
“Thanks!” said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground.
When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said:
“Now rest awhile – and let me work a bit.”

But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said:

“I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.”

“Here comes some one running,” said the hermit, “let us see who it is.”

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and re-bandaged the wound. When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit’s help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep – so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes.

“Forgive me!” said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him.

“I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for,” said the King.

“You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!”

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property.

Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before.

The King approached him, and said:

“For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.”

“You have already been answered!” said the hermit, still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.

“How answered? What do you mean?” asked the King.

“Do you not see,” replied the hermit. “If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important – Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!”

Leo Tolstoy, What Men Live By, and other tales, 1885

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Praise of Men

"A true Christian avoids the praise of men; not only avoids, but has a true fear of it.  A devout prince, upon hearing of the mortification of St. Moses Murin [the Black], went with his retinue into the desert to see him. Informing Moses that the prince was coming to his monastery, Moses quickly ran out and began to flee and to hide somewhere, but he unexpectedly encountered the high-ranking visitors. "Where is the cell of Abba Moses?" the servants of the prince asked, not suspecting that this was Moses himself. Moses opened his mouth and said: "What do you want him for? He is an ignorant old man, very untruthful and completely impure in life." Hearing this, the visitors were astonished and continued on. When they arrived at the cell of Moses, they inquired about the elder and the monks said that he was not there. Then they began to relate what a monk on the road had said about Moses. The monks were saddened and asked them: "How did he look, this old man, who spoke to you mocking words about this holy man?" and when they said that he was very dark in the face, tall and in a miserable garment; the monks cried out loudly: "but that was indeed the Abba Moses!" By this incident, the prince benefited greatly spiritually and rejoicefully returned to his home."

(Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue From Ochrid: Lives of the Saints and Homilies for Every Day in the Year, Vol. 3, p. 250.) 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Abyss

“So too no created being can go out of itself by rational contemplation. Whatever it sees, it must see itself; and even if it thinks it is seeing beyond itself, it does not in fact possess a nature which can achieve this. And thus in its contemplation of Being it tries to force itself to transcend a spatial representation, but it never achieves it. For in every possible thought, the mind is surely aware of the spatial element which it perceives in addition to the thought content; and the spatial element is, of course, created. Yet the Good that we have learned to seek and to cherish is beyond all creation, and hence beyond all comprehension. Thus how can our mind, which always operates on a dimensional image, comprehend a nature that has no dimension, especially as our minds are constantly penetrating, by analysis, into things which are more and more profound? And though the mind in its restlessness ranges through all that is knowable, it has never yet discovered a way of comprehending eternity in such wise that it might place itself outside of it, and go beyond the idea of eternity itself and that Being which is above all being. It is like someone who finds himself on a mountain ridge. Imagine a sheer, steep crag, of reddish appearance below, extending into eternity; on top there is this ridge which looks down over a projecting rim into a bottomless chasm. Now imagine what a person would probably experience if he put his foot on the edge of this ridge which overlooks the chasm and found no solid footing nor anything to hold on to. This is what I think the soul experiences when it goes beyond its footing in material things, in its quest for that which has no dimension and which exists from all eternity. For here there is nothing it can take hold of, neither place nor time, neither measure nor anything else; it does not allow our minds to approach. And thus the soul, slipping at every point from what cannot be grasped, becomes dizzy and perplexed and returns once again to what is connatural to it, content now to know merely this about the Transcendent, that it is completely different from the nature of the things that the soul knows.

“Thus it is, then, that when reason touches on those things which are beyond it, that is the time to keep silence (Eccles. 3.7); rather it keeps the wonder of that ineffable power within the secret of our conscience, fully aware that great men have spoken not of God but rather of his works, saying: Who shall declare the powers of the Lord? (Ps. 105.2) and I will relate all thy wonders (Ps. 9.2), and Generation and generation shall praise thy works (Ps. 144.4). This is what they discuss and this is what they have to say in their attempt to translate reality into words. But when their discourse touches on that which transcends all knowledge, it is rather silence that they prescribe in what they tell us. For they tell us that of the magnificence of the glory of His holiness there is no end. Ah, the wonder of it!” 

St. Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, sermon 7, (From Glory to Glory, SVSP, p. 127-128)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Two Ways

"There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone strikes your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one who asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless... " 

(The Didache - The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, ch. 1, Roberts-Donaldson English Translation, c. 50-120 AD)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Understanding Assaults on the Church

"God alone is absolute. Evil, which has no original essence but is merely the resistance of the free creature to Him that is before all ages -- to God -- cannot be absolute. Therefore evil in the literal sense does not, and cannot, exist. All evil effected by free beings must live like a parasite on the body of the good. Evil is bound to find a justification for itself, must appear disguised as good -- often the highest good. Evil always and inevitably contains an element appearing to have a positive value, and it is this which seduces man. Evil strives to present its positive aspect as a jewel so precious that all means are justified to attain it." 

(Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakhorov), St. Silouan the Athonite, St. John the Baptist, Essex, p. 117)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Onion

We are told by St. Silouan the Athonite, "Our brother is our life."

Once upon a time there was a peasant woman and a very wicked woman she was. And she died and did not leave a single good deed behind. The devils caught her and plunged her into the lake of fire. So her guardian angel stood and wondered what good deed of hers he could remember to tell to God; "She once pulled up an onion in her garden," said he, "and gave it to a beggar woman." And God answered: "You take that onion then, hold it out to her in the lake, and let her take hold and be pulled out. And if you can pull her out of the lake, let her come to Paradise, but if the onion breaks, then the woman must stay where she is." The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her. "Come," said he, "catch hold and I’ll pull you out." he began cautiously pulling her out. He had just pulled her right out, when the other sinners in the lake, seeing how she was being drawn out, began catching hold of her so as to be pulled out with her. But she was a very wicked woman and she began kicking them. "I’m to be pulled out, not you. It’s my onion, not yours." As soon as she said that, the onion broke. And the woman fell into the lake and she is burning there to this day. So the angel wept and went away.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Book VII, ch. 3

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lord, I call unto Thee

Thou wast held by lawless men, O Christ,
But to me Thou art God and I am not ashamed!
Thou wast smitten on the cheek, but I do not deny Thee!
Thou was nailed to the cross, and I do not conceal it,
For I glory in Thy resurrection – Thy death is my life!
O Almighty Lord and lover of man, glory to Thee!
(Resurrectional Oktoekhos, Tone 7, Stichera at Psalm 140)

Memory Eternal!

It is with extreme sadness that I report that our beloved pastor, priest, and brother in Christ, Archpriest Michael Lewis, Rector of St. Luke Orthodox Church in Garden Grove, California, fell asleep in the Lord on Monday, August 15, 2011. May God receive him in His Heavenly Kingdom and may his memory be eternal.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

God's Justice

"Be a herald of God's goodness, for God rules over you, unworthy though you are; for although your debt to Him is so great, yet He is not seen exacting payment from you, and from the small works you do, He bestows great rewards upon you. Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright (cf. Ps. 24:8, 144:17), His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind. 'He is good,' He says, 'to the evil and to the impious' (cf. Luke 6:35). How can you call God just when you come across the Scriptural passage on the wage given to the workers? 'Friend, I do thee no wrong: I will give unto this last even as unto thee. Is thine eye evil because I am good?' (Matt. 20:12-15). How can a man call God just when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son who wasted his wealth with riotous living, how for the compunction alone which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck and gave him authority over all his wealth? (Luke 15:11 ff.). None other but His very Son said these things concerning Him, lest we doubt it; and thus He bare witness concerning Him. Where, then, is God's justice, for whilst we are sinners Christ died for us! (cf. Rom. 5:8). But if here He is merciful, we may believe that He will not change." (from Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 60)

"Mercy is opposed to justice. Justice is equality of the even scale, for it gives to each as he deserves… Mercy, on the other hand, is a sorrow and pity stirred up by goodness, and it compassionately inclines a man in the direction of all; it does not requite a man who is deserving of evil, and to him who is deserving of good it gives a double portion. If, therefore, it is evident that mercy belongs to the portion of righteousness, then justice belongs to the portion of wickedness. As grass and fire cannot coexist in one place, so justice and mercy cannot abide in one soul... As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold, so in comparison God’s use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy. As a handful of sand thrown into the great sea, so are the sins of the flesh in comparison with the mind of God. And just as a strongly flowing spring is not obscured by a handful of dust, so the mercy of the Creator is not stemmed by the vices of His creatures." (from Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 51).

“The Staretz [Silouan] himself always spoke only of the love of God and never of His justice, but I purposely got him to talk about this, and here approximately is what he said: "One cannot say that God is unjust — that there is injustice in Him — but neither can one say that He is just in our sense of the word. St. Isaac of Syria wrote, 'Do not presume to call God just, for what sort of justice is this — we sinned, yet He gave up His only-begotten Son on the cross?’ To which we could add, We sinned, yet God appointed His holy angels to minister unto our salvation. But the angels, filled with love as they are, themselves desire to wait upon us and thereby accept affliction in our service. And the Lord surrendered the animals and the rest of the created world to the law of corruption because it was not proper for them to remain immune when man, for whose sake they were created, through his own sin became a slave to corruption. So, willingly or unwillingly, ‘the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now’ (cf. Rom. 8:20-22) in compassion for man. And this is not the law of justice – it is the law of love.” (Saint Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sofrony, p. 122)

Monday, August 15, 2011

A pastoral reflection for those, like myself, who have a blog

"Loquacity (talkativeness) mostly comes from a certain vainglory, which makes us think that we know a great deal and imagine our opinion on the subject of conversation to be the most satisfactory of all. So we experience an irresistible urge to speak out and in a stream of words, with many repetitions, to impress the same opinion in the hearts of others, thus foisting ourselves upon them as unbidden teachers and sometimes even dreaming of making pupils of men, who understand the subject much better than the teacher." (Unseen Warfare: as edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, and revised by Theophan the Recluse, Saint Vladimir Seminary Press, Ch. 25 On control of the tongue, pp. 143-4)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Translation of the Relics of St. Maximos the Confessor, Aug. 13

"Let us love one another, and we shall be loved by God. Let us be long-­suffering toward one another, and He will be long-­suffering toward our sins. Let us not render evil for evil, and He will not render to us according to our sins. We shall find remission of our transgressions in forgiving our brethren; for God's mercy toward us is concealed in our mercifulness toward our neighbor. This is also why the Lord said: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Luke 6:37). And if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14). After this, our salvation is already in our power." (The Ascetic Life)

"He who has genuinely renounced worldly things, and lovingly and sincerely serves his neighbour, is soon set free from every passion and made a partaker of God’s love and knowledge" (First Century on Love, no. 27)

"He who busies himself with the sins of others, or judges his brother on suspicion, has not yet even begun to repent or to examine himself so as to discover his own sins" (Third Century On Love, no. 55)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

True Freedom

"Slavery means obligatory service; freedom ought to mean willing service. Only a man or a nation educated for willing service to their neighbors is a really free man or free nation. All other theories of freedom are illusions. Freedom asking for rights and not willing for service means an endless quarrel crowning with unhappiness all its champions. Neither Pericles' republic nor Octavian's monarchy were States of happiness, but St. Paul's pan-human state, with a single Magna Charta of willing service, will be a State of Universal Happiness."

St. Nickolai of Zica, The Agony of the Church

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

"Well, how exactly do I love myself?

Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently 'Love your neighbor' does not mean 'feel fond of him' or 'find him attractive'. I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In fact it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. 

Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.
For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life -- namely myself. However much I may dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason I hated these things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort on man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again."

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On the Feast of the Transfiguration

Today we celebrate one of the Twelve great feasts of our ancient Orthodox Church – the Transfiguration of our Lord. In the hymn for the forefeast it is proclaimes: “The day of holy gladness has come. The Lord has ascended Mount Tabor to radiate the beauty of His Divinity.” 
The Gospel reading for this day (Matthew 17:1-9) tells us that Jesus took Peter, and the brothers James and John, and led them up a high mountainMt. Taborapart from the others, and there He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His garments became glistening, intensely white as light, and there appeared also Moses and Elijah, talking with our Lord.  And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will erect three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But while he was still speaking a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." And when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces filled with fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." And when they again opened their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus.
          It's interesting to note, in this Gospel just prior to this account of the Transfiguration Jesus Christ asks His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” (Mt. 16:13) The disciples – men who traveled with our Lord, listening to His holy teaching, having witnessed the cleansing of lepers, the healing of those paralyzed, the restoration of sight to the blind, the casting out of demons, the resurrection of Jairus’s young daughter, who heard the great parables and ate alongside the 4,000 and again among the 5,000 miraculously fed in the wilderness – these very same disciples reply, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, while still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Then He asks them, "But who do you say that I am?" And it’s Simon Peter who replies, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." It’s only a matter of days after this confession by Peter that the Transfiguration takes place.
          In the Old Testament, the appearance of light and cloud – as we have in today’s Gospel – signify the Divine Presence. We read in Exodus (24:15-17): “Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days: and the seventh day God called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Likewise, at the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor the bright cloud that overshadowed Peter, James, and John reveals the Divine Presence, and the Theophany here too was accompanied by a brilliant radiance. In other words, like on Mt. Sinai, God is here, but this time it’s God in mortal flesh; bearing our own mortal nature Jesus Christ.
          In their lifetimes, both Moses, the great Lawgiver, and Elijah, first among the prophets, had beheld the presence of God – as the Readings at Vespers last night pointed out – and thus they were appropriate witnesses on Mt. Tabor to Christ’s divinity. In this mystical event they are permitted to witness what they had eagerly anticipated but never seen while they were still in the flesh – the fulfillment of God’s promise in the Law and the Prophets – the incredible mystery of God’s plan for the salvation of a fallen creation, the Uncreated joined to the created in the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
          But isn’t it curious that the Lord took with Him on the mountain only these three of His Apostles – Peter, and the brothers James and John? Although God sometimes reveals Himself to us sinners in quite unexpected ways, it is usually those who have followed Him long and faithfully who are privileged to behold the vision of God.
          Concerning the selection of just these three out of the twelve holy Apostles, St. John Chrysostom says, “These three were superior to the rest. Peter’s superiority is made evident to us by his exceeding love for Christ” (Homily LVI, On the Gospel of St. Matthew, NPNF, Series One, vol. 10, p. 345.). And the brothers James and John are proven superior by their determination to share in the suffering of their Lord. If you’ll recall it was their mother who came to Jesus asking that her sons may sit, one at His right hand and the other at His left, in His kingdom. “And Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’ And James and John replied, ‘We are willing’,” (Mt. 20:20-22). Notice that they do not say that they are able, but that they are willing. This is the willingness of love.
          We all, like these three, are given the opportunity to behold the vision of God; to be transfigured in our own lives, in these bodies; to attain to intimate communion with God. How? What must we do? Each day, each moment, we must determine to make a new beginning; and with each new beginning we must determine to love God and our fellow mankind with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – loving these others more than our own lives. This is the center of the Christian life, of genuine human life, and it is the singular ingredient in the making of eternal life.
          How do we know if our love is genuine? In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, "Love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people," (Mere Christianity, Book 3, ch. 9). This is the 'willing' love revealed in James' and John's willingness to suffer and die for their Lord. In Answers to Questions on Christianity, Lewis again reminds us, saying, "Love is not affectionate feelings," but he goes on further to explain that love is "a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained."
          As we know, our Lord tells us to love all our fellow manincluding our enemies. St. Paul informs us of love saying,  “Let love be without falseness. Despise what is evil; keep your minds fixed on what is good. Be kind to one another with a brother’s love, putting others before yourselves in honor; Be not slow in your godly labors, but be quick in spirit, as the Lord’s servants; Be joyous in hope, patient amidst trouble, at all times given to prayer, giving to the needs of the saints," which is to say your fellow Christians; "ready to take people into your homes. Give blessing and do not curse those who are cruel to you. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and share in the grief of those who sorrow. Be in harmony with one another. Do not have a high opinion of yourselves, but humble yourself to men of low estate. Do not put on an air of wisdom. Do not repay evil for evil to any man. Take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. As far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men,” (Rom. 12:9-18).
          These things are enough to make our beginning. These things alone could occupy our lifetime. We will, however, certainly never achieve them if our eye is fixed upon the failings of others, or upon the achievements of our flesh, or the distractions and common wisdom of this world and our society. Let us then – you and I – make our new beginning here, keeping our eyes and our hope fixed upon our Transfigured Lord, remembering that it is our mortal nature which shone forth with the divine Transfiguration (From the Kontakion of the Forefeast).

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Most Blessed JONAH,  
Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada

issued an Archpastoral Letter Regarding Marriage

The early Christians were accused by their detractors of being traitorous to the empire for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that they apparently did not generally participate in politics. I wasn’t there, but I do not imagine that they walked around in rose colored glasses either. A Christian needs to stand against that which opposes the Gospel. There is a long, rich history for that. Our measure, however, is neither nationally defined nor party affiliated, and political spokesmen should not be informing our opinions. For a Christian, living and active faith in the context of the Church and the Divine Services is the source of our moral, ethical, and spiritual formation. Jesus Christ is the measure of all things.