Posts for Tag: spiritual-life

I wish to set you free from the condemnation that attaches to wealth

The things and possessions that are in the world are common to all, like the light and this air that we breathe, as well as the pasture for the dumb animals on the plains and on the mountains. All these things were made for all in common solely for use and enjoyment; in terms of ownership they belong to no one. But covetousness, like a tyrant, has intruded into life, so that its slaves and underlings have in various ways divided up that which the Master gave to be common to all. She has enclosed them by fences and made them secure by means of watch-towers, bolts, and gates. She has deprived all other men of the enjoyment of the Master’s good gifts, shamelessly pretending to own them, contending that she has wronged no one. But this tyrant’s underlings and slaves in turn become, each one of them, evil slaves and keepers of the properties and monies entrusted to them. Even if they are moved by the threat of punishments in store for them, or by the hope of receiving them back a hundredfold (Mk. 10:30) or by sympathy for the misfortunes of men, and take a few or even all of these things to give to those who are in poverty and distress whom they have hitherto ignored, how can they be accounted merciful? Have they fed Christ? Have they done a deed that is worthy of a reward? By no means! I tell you that they owe a debt of penitence to their dying day for all that they so long have kept back and deprived their brothers from using!...

But if anyone says, “Since this is so and we have no reward for the money and possessions we give, what need is there to give to the poor?” let him hear from Him who will judge him and requite to every man according to his works (Rom. 2:6), as though he were speaking to him: “You fool, what have you brought into the world (cf. 1 Tim. 6:7)? Have you yourself made anything that is visible? Did you not come forth naked from your mother’s womb? Will you not depart from life naked (Job 1:21) and will you not stand exposed before My judgment seat (cf. Heb. 4:13)? What money is there of yours for which you ask compensation? By what possessions of yours do you claim that you give alms to your brethren, and through them to Me? I have given you all these things, not to you alone, but to all men in common. Or do you think that I covet something and that I can be bribed like the covetous among human judges? For it is impossible that you have so thought in your folly. It is not that I covet any wealth, but that I have pity on you; it is not that I wish to take what is yours (cf. 2 Cor. 12:14) but that I wish to set you free from the condemnation that attaches to them that I so legislate, and for no other reason.”

Do not think at all, brother, that God is at a loss and is unable to feed the poor, and for this reason commands you to show mercy to them and highly values this commandment. Far from it! But Christ has taken that which the devil through covetousness has wrought against us for our perdition, and through almsgiving has turned to our good to make it redound for our salvation. What do I mean? The devil has suggested to us that we appropriate the things that were provided for our common use and hoard them for ourselves, so that through this covetousness he might make us liable to a double indictment and thus subject to eternal punishment and condemnation—the one, of being unmerciful, the other, of putting our hope in hoarded up wealth instead of in God. For he who has wealth hoarded up cannot hope in God, as is clear from what Christ our God has said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk. 12:34). He, then, who distributes to all from the wealth that he has stored up has no reward owing to him for doing this; rather, he is to blame for hitherto unjustly depriving others of it. Further, he is responsible for those who from time to time have lost their lives through hunger and thirst, for those whom he did not feed at that time though he was able, for the poor whose share he buried and whom he allowed to die a cruel death from cold and hunger (cf. Jas. 2:15f.). He is exposed as one who has murdered as many victims as he was then able to feed.

St. Symeon, Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses, ed. Richard J. Payne, trans. C. J. de Catanzaro, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), Discourse 9.4: 152–153, 9.6: 155–156.

Abba Moses' basket of sand

A brother of a Skete once committed a sin, and a council was held by the brethren to adjudicate the matter. They sent for Abba Moses, but he did not wish to come. The presbyter again sent for him, saying: "Come, we are all waiting for you." Then Abba Moses arose and took a basket with holes in the bottom, filled it with sand, and carried it on his back to the meeting. The Fathers came out to meet him, and when they saw him carrying the basket on his shoulders, they asked him: "What is this, Father?" The Elder replied to them: "They are my sins that are flowing out behind me, and I do not see them; and yet, I have come today to judge someone else's sins." When they heard this, they said nothing to the brother whom they wished to judge, but forgave him.

Archbishop Chrysostomos, Hieromonk Patapios et al., trans. and ed., The Evergetinos: A Complete Text, vol. III (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2008), 24.

Anger as a check engine light of the soul

... anger is often linked with another passion—pride. Now we will go so far as to say that anger does not often appear as an independent or fundamental passion in the human heart. Most often anger expresses the dissatisfaction of another passion, or even of the casual desires that a person may have from time to time. In the latter case, anger is called impatience or obstinacy, which in turn are expressions of a general self-love, lack of brotherly love and lack of desire to attend to oneself and struggle with oneself. The stronger a passion is in a person, the quicker and more fiercely it turns into anger when it is not satisfied. Thus the vainglorious and lovers of money become envious, the lustful become jealous, the gluttonous become over-critical and irritable, and so on. In general, anger is an indication of various sinful passions, and one can find out about these by noticing when a person begins to get angry: if it is during a conversation about fasting and sobriety, then he sins with the passion of overeating and drunkenness; if it is on occasions when he loses money—love of money; if during talks about the saints' feats of humility—he is proud, and so on. This is why we began our instructions to spiritual fathers with the struggle against anger, as it is an involuntary indicator of other passions. A person's enslavement to them is expressed first of all as enslavement to anger, which bursts out even with very cunning people who are otherwise able to hide their passions and keep quiet about their bad habits.

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Confession: A Series of Lectures on the Mystery of Repentance, trans. Fr. Christopher Birchall (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1996), 53.

Cosmetic piety

The vast majority of Christianity has been concerned with "churching" people into symbolic, restful, and usually ethnic belonging systems rather than any real spiritual transformation into the mystery of God....

... I am convinced that most of our ministries have legitimated the autonomous self and even fortified it with all kinds of religious armor. Religious people are even harder to transform because they don't think they need it.... I find much more openness and response at the county jail than among the typical group of churchgoers....

Much of what is called Christianity has more to do with disguising the ego behind the screen of religion and culture than any real movement toward a God beyond the small self, and a new self in God. Much of our work feels like cosmetic piety, and often shame or fear-based at that, rather than any real transformation of the ego self, or what the Eastern churches rightly call "divinization...."

Richard Rohr, Andreas Ebert, and Peter Heinegg, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (New York: Crossroad Pub, 2001), vx.

The miracle of human clay bearing divine fire

... Orthodoxy is expected to do something. It's not just a matter of having the right theology, or the right ecclesiastical institution (though I believe it does have those things). It's that there is an innate dynamism. This faith is expected to accomplish something—to enable a person to grow in union with God....

The Eastern Christian Way includes the elements we'd associate with any spiritual path—prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and so forth—and they fit together organically, like the parts of a diet-and-exercise program. Somebody who doesn't actually do the work and put it into practice won't see any benefit (another way it's like a diet-and-exercise program). But for those who do, transformation takes place. It happens in ways that are notable and recognizable, and even, in some cases, miraculous....

Wherever the faith is taken, this Way takes root and bears fruit....

The goal of this healing path is union with God. This is called theosis, which is usually translated "deification" or "divinization...." We can dismantle the Greek word and see that it is composed of theos, which means "God," and the suffix –osis, which indicates a process. As red dye saturates a white cloth by the process of osmosis, so humans can be saturated with God's presence by the process of theosis....

We can see this transformation in the Gospel story of Christ's Transfiguration. He took Peter, James, and John aside and led them up a high mountain. "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as light.... 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.' When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise and have no fear'" (Matt. 17:1–8).

This was not a change in Jesus; he had always been filled with glory. It was a change in the disciples' ability to perceive.... The Orthodox hymn for the Transfiguration says that Christ revealed his glory "as far as they [the disciples] could bear it...."

The light of the Transfiguration is not ordinary earthly light, but the light of God's glory, the light that was before the universe was made, called the "Uncreated Light" in Orthodoxy. God made us like himself ("image and likeness") so that we could take on this light as a lump of coal takes on fire. This is the destiny we were created for: participation in the light and glory of God. This expectation is the catalyst of Orthodox spirituality….

The miracle of human clay bearing divine fire is foreshadowed in the burning bush (Exod. 3:1–6). God's presence wholly irradiates a dry desert shrub, but does not destroy it. Miraculously, the bush remains intact, remains itself. God's presence doesn't obliterate or replace us, but helps us to become ourselves—each of us the real self he has always intended us to be....

Theosis is not something we achieve by trying really hard. We require a more radical kind of surgery; in fact, we must die. As we die to self and get out of the way, Christ's life can fill us. "You have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).

Frederica Mathewes-Green, Welcome to the Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity (Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, 2015), 67–71.