"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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Toil of the Cross We Are Called to Carry



The Toil of the Cross We Are Called to Carry

A
 young man was despondent and heavy of heart that he had not seen the fruit of his prayers and ascetic labors, and so he went to speak to his spiritual father. He said to the old man, "I do not know what to do! To me nothing seems to bear fruit for God."



The old man said, “I will help you but first you must help me.”

The young man happily agreed.

The old man took him to the narrow road behind the monastery and gave him a pair of shears. He instructed the young man, “Cut the branches back away and clear them from the path so that passers-by will not be hindered by them.”

Desiring to satisfy the old man, with joy and determination the young man took to his labor. Indeed, immediately the young man threw himself into the work.

Much time passed by and the young man was barely one-third completed with the work. More and more he looked to the work yet to be done, but could imagine no way to finish the task before evening. Then he heard the steps of the old man and his countenance fell, his heart beat with anxiety, and he felt great shame for the job could not be finish before sunset.

The old man drew near and exclaimed: "Well done!"

The young man, greatly surprised, responded. "How can you say 'well done?’ Do you not see that I am not even half done with the task that you have given me?"

The old man laughed, saying, "I did not tell you to complete the task! I simply asked that you cut the branches back."

So it is in life. We need do, without measure, the work that God has assigned to us in life. With a little patience, determination of our will, and foremost, with the love of God, we will complete our portion. Yet the final result will come only in God's time. God's work is freeing. God's work is liberating. Our labor is to fulfill his commandments in as much as we are able. And like the eating of sweets, to find satisfaction in the eating.

X X X

My very poor English translation, with which I took liberties, of a post in Serbian by Milan Pavlica, of Novi Sad, Serbia. Posted on “The Orthodox Church” Facebook page:

With thanks to Sonia Sanoo Lazic for her initial translation and bringing it to my attention.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How We Today Achieve the Victory of the Cross



How We Achieve the Victory of the Cross

Protopresbyter John Romanides

 I




T
hroughout its history the Church has had to fight sin and corruption within its own members, and often within its clergy. However, in every epoch She knew how to implement the appropriate means, as She always remained able to recognize the enemy. The Church exists in the truth not because all its members are without sin, but because the sacramental life is always present in Her and against Her the Devil is defenseless. “When you often assemble in one place (επι το αυτο), the power of Satan is destroyed” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians, 13). Whenever members of a community gather to celebrate the Eucharist and are in the condition to exchange the kiss of peace to commune together in the Body and Blood of Christ, the devil is defeated. However, when a member of the Body of Christ communes unworthily, he eats and drinks damnation (I Cor. 11:29). When a Christian does not commune at all with the Body and Blood of Christ in every Eucharist, he is spiritually dead (Jn. 6:53). The Church has categorically refused to endorse the practice whereby a large number of Christians attend the Eucharist, while a few commune. Guidance, participation in prayer and communion are inseparable (7th Apostolic Canon; St. John Chrysostom, 3rd Homily On Ephesians). “Let no one be deceived: if somebody is outside the sanctuary, he is deprived of the Bread of God...he who does not gather together with the Church has shown his pride and has condemned himself” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Eph. 5). The Biblical and Patristic tradition is unanimous on one point: The one who is a living member of the Body of Christ is one who is dead to the power of death and who lives in the renewal of the Spirit of life. For this very reason, those who denied Christ during persecution, even after hours of torture, were considered excommunicated. Once a Christian died with Christ in baptism, he was expected to be ready to die anytime in the name of Christ. “Whoever denies me before men I will deny also before my Father in heaven” (Mat. 10:33). The 10th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council does not merely prohibit the ordination of anyone who has denied Christ during the persecution, but declares the automatic invalidation of any such ordination, even if it took place in ignorance of the ordainer. All who have performed such an ordination are themselves deprived of the priesthood. What serious breakers of the vows of baptism are those who are too lazy to go to church. The approval that our clergy today gives our sacramental practice is even more unacceptable! If the Christian was excommunicated for having denied Christ after hours of physical torture, those who week after week excommunicate themselves are all the more condemnable.

The character and methods of the Devil have not changed. He has remained similar to himself, as Paul described, capable of “transforming into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:15). The power of death in the world remains the same. The means of salvation, the death of baptism and the life of the Eucharist, have thus remained the same (at least in the liturgical books of the Church). The canons of the Church were never changed. We always read the same Scriptures approved by the Fathers. How then can we explain our modern weaknesses? They have never been so evident.

There can be only one answer to this question. The members of the Church are not fighting evil in the spirit of the Bible. Too many Christians employ the Church for their own interests and interpret the doctrine of Christ according to their own feelings. The essential task of the Orthodox today must be to return to the truth of the Apostles and the Fathers and to not walk according to the laws of the prince of darkness and the elements of this world. It is for this reason that Christ died. To deny this is to deny his Cross and the blood of martyrs. Before criticizing the “inflexibility” of patristic doctrine, the modern Orthodox must return to the presuppositions of life in Christ in Scripture and be careful not to pervert the doctrine of Christ.


I

”La Vie dans Christ” originally appeared in SYNAXE No 21 (p.26-28) and No 22 (p.23-26).
To God Be Glory, Amen.


Translated from the French with an Introduction by James L. Kelley

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Story of Life



A Story of Life

B
eloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:11-12 


X X X




T
wo men, both seriously ill, occupied the same room in a hospital. One of them had to get up out of bed for an hour every afternoon. His bed was next to the only window in the room. The other had to remain all the time lying in bed. The two of them chatted for hours on end. They talked about their wives and their families, about their homes, about their work, also reeling from memories of holidays past.

Every afternoon, the one man would rise and go to the window and spend the time describing to the other man what he saw going on beyond the window. For that short time the man, imprisoned upon his bed, began to live. His world was dependent upon the colors and activities in the outside world as the first man described them to him in detail. He described how beyond the window was a lovely park with a lake. Ducks and swans would play in the water, while children played their games. Young lovers walking hand in hand among flowers of every color, while in the distance the old men and women rested in the shade of the great, green trees. As the man at the window described the beauty of the scene, the one confined to his bed would close his eyes, imagining the scene. On one warm afternoon, the man beside the window described a parade passing by. Although the other couldn't hear the orchestra play, in the eyes of the mind he could see what the other described with so many expressive details. And so passed the days, the weeks and the months ....

One morning, when the nurse came to bring them water to wash, she found the lifeless body of the man beside the window who had reposed during sleep. She was deeply saddened and called for staff to take the inanimate body.

Considering it appropriate under the circumstances and at the time, the other, bedridden man, asked that, if possible, he be moved near the window where his hospital roommate had lain. The nurse was pleased to meet his desire and, once satisfied that everything was as it ought to be, left him alone. Slowly—slowly and painfully—he managed to set himself up in the bed enough to see, for the first time with his own eyes, the outside world through that lone window. He strained to extend himself as best he could toward the window. And in front of his eyes he saw through the window nothing but an empty wall. Upon the nurses’ return he asked the nurse how it was that his former roommate could see from the window the many wonders he had described to him in such detail. The nurse replied that the man was blind and could not see even the empty wall. To this she added, “Perhaps he simply wanted to console and cheer you."

It is a great joy to be able to make others joyful, despite the hardships of their existence. Shared with others, the trials may be endured, while the joys are doubled. If you want to feel wealthy, then take heed to the things that you have and that you can never buy with money.

Author unknown


X X X



OrthoGraffiti Magazine (Romania), no. 6 April 2010, editor Lawrence Darrow. http://www.orthograffiti.ro/