"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

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Story of the Generous King



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magine that a great king comes into a city he loves and for which he has shed his blood. He sends heralds throughout the city inviting every citizen to come to him personally with a request for whatever favor he so desires. For this purpose he grants a general audience at which each citizen might approach him with a request for whatever is on his heart.

On the appointed day, the king, arrayed in royal vesture, is seated upon an elevated golden throne surrounded by dignitaries in splendid court dress. The citizens enter and one by one each freely makes known his request. And what do you think? One asks the king for a small sum of money. The request is granted. Another asks the king that an enclosure be built around his property, to which the king nods in assent. A third, a woman, asks that her son receive a position at the court. With a sigh the king replies, "That can be done." Meanwhile, the court secretary is recording the king's favors in order that they might be fulfilled. Another person, complaining of an illness, asks the king to send him his court physician to which the king also gives his consent. All the requests are very modest and are fulfilled by the king. He grants each according to his request. And everyone is pleased except the king, who is sorrowful.

Finally, there comes a pauper. He has tried his best to clean his clothes and to appear before the king in a manner as fitting as his poverty allows. Falling at the feet of the king and weeping, he beseeches him, "O great king, I entreat thee to give me a place in thy kingdom, that I may partake of thy radiance and greatness; grant me to live in thy court, grant me splendid apparel worthy of being in thy presence, and likewise grant me a shining crown on my head, and the joy of being with thee forever in eternal love, and grant me the delight of gazing upon thee. Also, O Good One, receive me as one of thy sons!"
 
At this bold request, the other citizens begin murmuring amongst themselves: "How dare this wretch address the king with such brazen demands? The king will surely punish him." But the king arises from his throne, covers the pauper with his robe of royal purple, and places upon his head a gold crown studded with precious stones. Turning to the rest of those gathered, he says, "This man has acted rightly. I came here in order to shower you with favors, but you have made such paltry, insignificant requests... Of course, you will receive what you have asked. I am generous and I love you. However, this pauper is wiser than all of you. He understands that I am truly generous and wealthy, and that I have come in order to give you what is truly great. He asked this great boon of me and he will be given it. I am bestowing upon him my grace."

And so, emulate this wise pauper and ask the Heavenly King to grant you this mercy – the grace of the Holy Spirit. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord (Matt. 25:21).

I

Reflections of a Humble Heart: A fifteenth-century text on the spiritual life Richfield Springs, New York: Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society, 2007), 95-97.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Conception by Righteous Anna of the Most Holy Mother of God



Sunday, December 9, 2012
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t. Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She married St. Joachim (September 9), who was a native of Galilee. 

The righteous Joachim and Anna were childless for fifty years of their married life. In their old age the Archangel Gabriel appeared to each one of them separately, announced to them that they would be the parents of a daughter, Who would bring blessings to the whole human race. Then St. Anna conceived by her husband and after nine months bore a daughter blessed by God and by all generations of men: the Most-holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos.

The Orthodox Church does not accept the teaching that the Mother of God was exempted from the consequences of ancestral sin (death, corruption, sin, etc.) at the moment of her conception by virtue of the future merits of Her Son. This view was popularized by the Western Church under the influence of erroneous teachings of Blessed Augustine. Only Christ was born perfectly holy and sinless, as St Ambrose of Milan teaches in Chapter Two of his Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke. The Holy Virgin was like everyone else in Her mortality, and in being subject to temptation, although She committed no personal sins. She was not a deified creature removed from the rest of humanity. If this were the case, She would not have been truly human, and the nature that Christ took from Her would not have been truly human either. If Christ does not truly share our human nature, then the possibility of our salvation is in doubt.
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Troparion - Tone 4
Today the bonds of barrenness are broken,
God has heard the prayers of Joachim and Anna.
He has promised them beyond all their hopes to bear the Maiden of God,
by whom the uncircumscribed One was born as mortal Man;
He commanded an angel to cry to her:
“Rejoice, O full of grace,
the Lord is with you!”
Kontakion - Tone 4
 “Today You have shown forth...”
Today the universe rejoices,
for Anna has conceived the Theotokos through God's dispensation,
for she has brought forth the one who is to bear the ineffable Word!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Man's Search For Meaning



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t does not really matter what we expect from life, but rather what Life expects from us. We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who are being questioned by Life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct.

Those transitory things which appear to us to take the meaning away from our earthly human life include not only suffering, but dying as well. However, the only real transitory aspects of life are the potentialities; and as soon as these potentialities are actualized, they are rendered realities at that very moment; they are saved and delivered into the past, wherein they are rescued and preserved from transitoriness. For, in the past, nothing is irretrievably lost but everything irrevocably stored.

The person who does not respond positively to what Life – to what God Himself requires of him – resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively, as a son of the Creator, is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessor, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with contentment and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a younger person?  For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, in my past are not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings meaningfully suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most thankful, though these are the things which cannot inspire envy.”
 

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(adapted and freely edited from Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl)