Forgive me.

March 9, 2008

In so many ways I have sinned against you all, against God, against my neighbor, against my family, my Church, my soul. Were the souls of us all laid upon my shoulders I would’ve dragged us all to hell many times over, and I apologize from the depths of my heart for the many ways I’ve fallen short. Forgive me, if not for the good of my own wretched soul, for the good of your own, that the Lord have have mercy on you and forgive you also. God forgives.

Today the Royal Doors have been closed, a reminder that through the guilt of Adam’s sin death has entered into the world and paradise has been shut… not to chastise, not to punish, but as a sign of ineffable mercy. Knowing that we have shared in Adam’s sin, knowing that we have wasted our lives as the Prodigal, knowing that we have denied Him more than Peter, and betrayed Him more than Judas… knowing that we have loved ourselves more than Him and have even at times entertained the thought that we are somehow ‘righteous’, let us enter into the great humility of the Fast that we may be found worthy of paradise, when the Doors are once again opened, as Christ has Risen. Let us endure this time of abstinence that we may be satisfied, let us be slaves in Christ that we may experience His freedom, let us strive for penitence, silence, peace as we run from sin, that we may be found rejoicing on His Resurrection rather than unmoved, unchanged, stoic and lifeless.

It’s worth it to leave the table before being satisfied. It’s worth it to turn off that TV awhile and turn away from the computer screen. It’s worth it to go for a short walk or drive if only to experience peace and silence. It’s worth it to avert your eyes from sinful entertainments, avert your ears from gossip, and avert your mouth from slander… for as St. John the Chrysostom said, is any man fasting? Let him prove it by his works… for what does it mean if we’re fasting if we devour our brother?

There is a whole. There is a completion. It’s one thing to abstain from meat and dairy… it’s one thing to run from the occasions of sin… it’s one thing to increase in spiritual readings and decrease in sensory pleasures, but consider this; he who does the least of the expectation is an abomination. Don’t try to skim by with the minimal expectation — commit violence to yourself, to your passions. Give until it hurts a little. Silently endure accusation. Attentively pray. Wholeheartedly give alms of time, patience and love. Practice humility. Bear your cross and receive the crown, and treasure the grace awaiting you… please, for the love of God and His holy Mother, treasure it. Don’t give it up so easily, as a moment in grace, a second in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, is beyond compare more precious than a lifetime of hedonism.

Let us remember the holy Martyrs who endured the horrors of pain and torture, in our efforts to abstain from bodily, sensory pleasures. Let us remember the example of the Forerunner in the desert, before we go for “just a little more on the plate.” Let us remember, above all, the Passion of Christ, God the Son, Who endured humanity for us, humility, pain beyond pain, even Crucifixion, to make us free… before we cut ourselves some slack, before we decide we’re too good for the Fast, before we give in to the passions or entertain demons…

Let this be the season where we recognize ourselves as Orthodox Christians, and let this be the season where others can see Christ within us. Show your worth. As St. Seraphim of Sarov said, if you ignore the Fast you aren’t an Orthodox Christian… no matter what you think you may be.

+ Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.

Forgive me brothers and sisters.

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Prayer.

March 5, 2008

Oh that I was ever worth the suffering on the Cross…

The diadem of wicked thorns pressed wickedly into the head of the Son of man, the bitter sponge of which He tasted, the piercing spear, the mockery of those who looked upon the Christ as though He deserved to be crucified amongst thieves…

The spit upon His gentle face, the agony of hanging between life and death for hours, spikes driven into His hands and feet. O Son of God, betrayed insidiously with a betrayer’s kiss and sold for a slaves wages, how long will Your patience endure? With longsuffering You found the very ones who hung You on a cross worthy of salvation. By Your blood You see us not according to our iniquities, but according to Your infinite goodness. By our death and burial in the watery grave are we resurrected in Your likeness, leaving the world behind us, and the Cross before us.

You have given us a cross, grant O Lord that we may bear it as You did. You have shown us the path before us, grant O Lord that we may walk it with repentance. You have given us life, grant O Lord that it isn’t wasted in vain pursuits but according to Your glory. You have given us the eyes of faith, grant O Lord that we may never cheapen our vision with earthly things. You have given us our hearts, grant O Lord that they may become contrite and humble. You have given us a sound mind, grant O Lord that they’re not enticed by the delusions of the adversary. You have given us a new day, grant O Lord that we remember You always. You have given us truth, grant O Lord that our discernment is spiritual.

Teach me to hope, to believe, to pray, to forgive, to suffer, to learn. Open my eyes to wisdom, but not of that which is worldly knowing that it is foolishness of God, but to that which is profitable unto my soul. Open my heart to humility and patience, that like rain the virtues may nourish my spirit and provide fruits in abundance for the Kingdom. Grant, O Lord, that there is less of myself, and more of You.

Set my feet on the path before me and do not suffer me to fall into the snares of the devil. Grant, O Lord, that I may have patience and endurance for all which lies ahead of me, and when I sin, that my repentance may be sincere, heartfelt, and with tears — For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

On self-crucifixion…

March 4, 2008

“Let us not, who would be Christians, expect anything else from it than to be crucified. For to be a Christian is to be crucified, in this time and in any time since Christ came for the first time. His life is the example–and warning–to us all. We must be crucified personally, mystically; for through crucifixion is the only path to resurrection. If we would rise with Christ, we must first be humbled with Him–even to the ultimate humiliation, being devoured and spit forth by the uncomprehending world.

“And we must be crucified outwardly, in the eyes of the world; for Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and the world cannot bear it, even in a single representation of it, even for a single moment. The world can only accept Antichrist, now or at anytime.

“No wonder, then, that it is so hard to be Christian–it is not hard it is impossible. No one can knowingly accept a way of life which, the more truly it is lived, leads more surely to one’s own destruction. And that is way we constantly rebel, try to make life easier, try to be half-Christian, try to make the best of both worlds. We must ultimately choose–our felicity lies in one world or the other, not in both.

“God give is the strength to pursue the path of crucifixion; there is not other way to be Christian.”

— Blessed Father Seraphim Rose of Platina, Heiromonk

Father Seraphim, our voice ringing harmoniously with the earliest Fathers, provides a blatant and soul-striking glimpse into what Christianity truly is. In these ecumenist, modern days of faithless and weakened Christianity, we have a voice from the spiritual desert calling us, still, to dying to the world. Blessed Father Seraphim Rose exhorts us to crucify ourselves and our passions, be humble, even to the point of ridicule, in the eyes of the world, and in accord with his Patron Saint Seraphim of Sarov, he teaches that holiness isn’t in doing good deeds, holiness isn’t in almsgiving, holiness isn’t in ‘being a good person’, holiness is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, which leads to all good things. And how, one may ask, is the Spirit acquired? Putting on Christ. In death to yourself and to the world, in the watery, mystical burial, in the resurrection and the life, followed by holy chrismation, and walking the ever-so-narrow path of the wearied, God-pleasing Saints before us. We have been spoonfed by self-appointed teachers from modern and dead theological academies that Christianity is believing in Jesus. Your get out of hell free card lies in spending a couple of hours in church, reading your Bible a bit, having a little faith, saying a sinners prayer at an ‘altar’, which nowadays is the equivalent of a stage.

When asking, “How does one follow Christ?” You again get taken back to doing good deeds and having trust in God, but this is nothing. We so eagerly ignore the words of the Christ, God the Son, when He says “follow Me”. We add our own interpretation. His interpretation, Scripturally, is “Pick up your own cross, deny yourself, and follow Me.” How willing are we to deny ourselves? How heavy are our crosses? How strong is our faith? How often do we seek esteem from modern society, run by television, money and music? What is it if a man gains the entire world and loses his own soul? What is a little over half a century on earth denying yourself for the sake of Christ in comparison with an eternity in the presence of our glorious and exalted God?

As it is written… when Christ returns, will there be faith left in the world? As it is written… the hearts of many have grown cold. And many are being deceived. Let us expect nothing more out of Christianity than to be crucified, therein is life. Flee from the health and wealth gospel, this life has been given to you for repentance. Paradise is within our reach, but how far will we stretch our arms? Let us look to the example of the outstretched arms of Christ, the King of Glory, as He painfully, and shamefully endured the Passion.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us… and as Father Seraphim says, may God give us the strength to endure the path of crucifixion. Amen.