:: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 ::
:: Monday, July 24, 2006 ::
There is an older man, J, at the church where I have been attending. Now, he is not that “old” in years, but he has aged well. Even though I have only known him briefly, he has that kind of ambience which one acquires when one has habitually practiced good and fled from evil. Although I do not know how long he has been a Christian, I would suspect that it has been many years and a rather hard struggle. And now, he reaps the rewards of that struggle. One can tell from subtle things, like the way he phrases suggestions or the way in which he moves, that he has a wisdom that comes from a life of habitual piety: prayer, repentance, and struggle.
When I am old (as I jokingly tell people), I want to be a babushka in a church. I want to have that kind of sagacity, wisdom, and gentleness. I want to quietly bear the scars from years of fighting the passions and be an example to the young, zealous, and exuberant (obnoxious?) converts. This is the kind of faith a young person cannot have. Of course, to gain this faith, wisdom, and gentleness, I have to fight the passions, do the hard work of repentance, and learn how to make things like prayer habitual to my being. It is not an easy path, but to see the rewards it offers is encouraging to those of us who are in the midst of the throes of our struggles.
On the other hand, there is F, who is not aging well. He and J are rather close in years, but in manner of life they are infinitely apart. F has fought and spurned God and religion his whole life, and has indulged his passions. Now, as he approaches old age, his passions have become so ingrained into his being that he can no longer fight them. Even when he recognizes that they are wrong, they are like a bad habit that he is powerless to resist. As his resistance wanes with increasing age, and he continues to reap the results of his life, and he will likely become more bitter with time. This is a sad life, and yet it is one to which many people are doomed.
I do not mean to moralize, but clearly I am. We must fight our passions while we still are able to fight them, before we are old and set in our bad ways. Even if we feel like we are losing and the battle is hard, remember that it is the very scars we get in the battle that will make us more like our Lord --- himself the Innocent Lamb, scared by the whips so that we might be victorious over our passions.
Glory to God!
:: 7:18 PM on
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
:: Thursday, July 20, 2006 ::
In these last few weeks at UCLA, I have discovered something wonderful. Morning Liturgies. I can get to them, and back to school all before class starts. I really feel like I have accomplished a lot before 8:30 in the morning. Half the class is just waking up, but I’ve already gotten myself to and from church (on the bus, no less!) and have spent at least part of the day in prayer. If you can get to them, morning liturgies rock!
Glory to God!
:: 8:43 PM on
Monday, July 24, 2006
Lord, Have Mercy!
:: Thursday, July 13, 2006 ::
Last Sunday, H.G. Bishop JOSEPH asked us to pray specifically for the suffering people in Lebanon. Being as a-political as I am, I viewed this not as a request to pray for a specific political goal, but rather for the innocent people whose lives are endangered and futures uncertain due to the political upheaval of the region.
So, the other day, while praying the Supplicatory Canon, I paused and specifically prayed for the innocents. It went something like, “Preserve, O Lord, those who suffer at the hands of wrong-doers. Have mercy on them, for Thou art our merciful and compassionate God who loves mankind. Comfort them in their affliction, rescue them from danger, and be to them a shelter to guard them…” It continued in a like manner, “Destroy those who do evil, punish them for the wrong they have inflicted upon Thy people.”
Somewhere in the middle of this “revenge” clause I caught myself. Here I was, in one prayer, asking for both mercy on myself (first-person used figuratively throughout) and revenge on my enemies. It didn’t make sense. I was asking God to forgive my sins, overlook my wrongs, and yet to punish the sins of my enemies and make them suffer for their wrongs. That’s hypocrisy.
So, I changed my prayer. Not only must I forgive those who hate me, as Christ forgave those who crucified him even as they were doing it, but I must pray that the Lord will have the same mercy upon them as I desire that he has upon me. In other words, I must pray for my enemies as I pray for myself. Their actions can be wrong, but I can only pray that they are forgiven this wrong, not that they are punished for it.
“Lord, have mercy on them that hate and wrong me and make temptation for me, and let them not perish because of me, a sinner!”
Glory to God!
:: 8:01 PM on
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Insensibility: Words from a Saint
:: Friday, July 07, 2006 ::
So, I sin. Then I go to confession. Then the priest absolves me. Then I sin. Then I go to confession. Then…
It seems like a never-ending cycle. How do we break this habit of sin? Sometimes I swear, I can make my weekly confession lists and say them the week before. “So, yeah, Father, I’m gonna do this, that, and the other thing. Oh, and I’ll also do this and these.” But I have the nagging feeling that confession should not be done for future events.
In all serious, sin is a habit. In fact, I generally feel more frustration for being unable to break the habit then contrition for the specific sin(s) which compose the habit. I get to the point where I am reading a list, feeling nothing…no shame, contrition, repentance…nothing of what I should feel.
Here are some of the words of our father among the saints, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, which he gave on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women:
“Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? This is a question filled with anxiety, sadness, and bewilderment. This anxiety, sadness, and bewilderment are felt by those souls who are making their way to the Lord, having ceased serving the world and sin. Before their gaze is revealed, in all its terrible magnitude and significance, the infirmity of insensibility. They desire to pray with contrition, to read the word of God without desiring to read other things, and to abide in continual contemplation of their sinfulness, in continual pain over it. In a word, they want to be adopted by God, to belong to God, and they encounter something unexpected --- an opposition within themselves that is not comprehended by the servants of the world: insensibility of heart. Their heart, struck by their previous negligent life as if by a mortal wound, displays no signs of life. In vain does their mind gather thoughts about death, about God’s Judgment, about the multitude of their sins, about the torments of hell and the delights of paradise. In vain does their mind try to smite their heart with these thoughts --- it remains without feeling for them, as if hell, paradise, God’s Judgment, one’s own transgression, and one’s state of falleness and perdition had no relation whatsoever to the heart. It sleeps a deep sleep, a sleep of death. It sleeps, drunk and intoxicated with sinful poison. Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? This stone is very great.”
Sure, they describe the problem, but the solution is either too trite or too complex: “a constant, pious, and attentive life.” Uh…what’s that mean?
Glory to God!
:: 3:12 PM on
Thursday, July 13, 2006
A Gut Reaction
With all of the theological thinking I do, it’s nice to be reassured that my “gut reactions” are still valid.
The other day, as I was riding the bus across campus, sitting in the front “disabled” seats with my crutches upright beside me, an old woman flagged down the bus. The driver opened the doors, and s l o w l y an old, probably homeless, woman approached the bus. She looked ancient. Moreover, she looked like she was in pain. From the looks of her gnarled hands, arthritis had ravaged her body. She lifted her first foot to get it to the bus step. She couldn’t reach the handrail to balance herself, so she had to try again. A second time, she tried to make the first step. It was no more successful then the first. By now, at least two minutes had passed since she had hailed the bus. She tried again, putting both hands on the step in front of her. Slowly, painfully, she got one foot onto the bus. We waited for another three minutes as this woman boarded the bus and sat down near the front, looking exhausted and clearly in pain.
As I watched from my “front-row” seat, I hung my head in shame. “O Lord, forgive us our debts,” was all I could mutter under my breath. I wasn’t being theological, introspective, or smart. But I was watching a bus full of impatient people stand idly by while a woman struggled to ascend a few steps. No one offered her a hand or made any attempt to help her. We stared like dumb sheep. I’m not asking for someone to become intimately involved in her life, but simply to help her up a few steps of a bus. I was ashamed that I didn’t help her. I was ashamed that I just sat and stared. O Lord, forgive us our debts.
Glory to God!
:: 4:44 PM on
Friday, July 07, 2006