What we have…

March 17, 2008

Consider this…

Moses, who spoke with God through the burning bush, who removed his sandals on the ever-holy ground… who led the captives out of Egypt, who ascended the Mount and saw what can only be described in our frail human terminology and way of thought as the ‘back side’ of God… then descended with the Commandments… Moses, who by the power of God, parted the sea and freed the captives from Pharaoh.He did not have what we have.David, the Prophet, the King, who wrote most of the Psalter from which we chant and sing, who understood repentance and was considered the apple of God’s eye — David who slew Goliath, being exalted from a young shepherd boy, to Israel’s greatest King…

He did not have what we have.

King Solomon, who excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom, who built the temple which held the Ark of the Covenant, who wrote the powerful Song of Songs and the Book of Ecclesiastes…

He did not have what we have.

John, the Baptist of the Lord, known to be the holiest man who walked the earth… who in shambles dared to touch the untouchable, in fear that he may be consumed as wheat to fire in touching God the Son! John who preached from the desert, sustaining himself only on honey on locusts, clothed in animal skins and very much dead to the world, who many believed to be the promised Messiah…

He did not have what we have.

Isaiah, the Fifth Evangelist, who saw the Lord seated high and lifted up in the year that King Uzziah died… Isaiah who felt contrition in a vision of the Lord, though he had seen the coming of divine worship, he still knew himself to be unclean. Isaiah, who was visited by the Seraphim with the burning coal, that glorious foreshadowing of the Divine Eucharist — the first to have heard “Behold, this has touched your lips…”

He did not have what we have.

Though these were undeniably holier than we, stop and consider — we have seen the fulfillment of the Promise. What Isaiah saw a foreshadowing of we have access to! Where Moses had to ascend in fear and trembling our God now descends! The path in which John preached to walk is manifest!

… How we must grieve the Lord, that we take our faith so casually.

How we must grieve Him that in the Old Testament, the days of waiting and expectation, there were those holy enough to look upon the Chalice with true, undeniable piety… reverence… Godly fear… and tears. How often we approach the Chalice with indifference, and hardened hearts, and mindlessly attend the Divine Liturgy which so many righteous died waiting for, without even knowing of it’s future revelation.

How would these Saints and righteous ones have approached the Chalice? How would they have stood within the beauty of the New Israel, God’s Church? In fear, in awe, in extreme piety and devotion, in ways that we would possibly never even come to understand… these Saints who lived before the God-man, before the Promise of Salvation had been completely made manifest, even as a Child to a Virgin. I must stop for a moment and consider Moses, how would he respond to that call, “with faith and with love come forward”? Would he be able to move at all? Would he tremble in fear, rejoice in tears and thanksgiving? That we can’t say for sure…

… but consider, if he and the others were to watch us in our stoicism, in our inattentiveness, and our hardness of heart, as we check our watches and shift our weight and worry for comfort… they would rend their garments, and sprinkle ashes on themselves. How easily we take it all for granted! We stand within the Church of Acts, of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Church of Pentecost, of the radiant and victorious martyrs! The faith which established the universe is ours!

How much do we give, how much do we strive, how much do we hurt, how much do we show that we want it? Do you know the difference between a man and a Saint? Effort. God has revealed to us the Church and the Sacraments, and the power in which His grace can turn us from men into angels… we have so much more than the Old Testament Saints. We stand on holier ground, we are beyond compare richer, we have the complete fulfillment of prophecy and vision…

… but we simply, lack, the effort.

May God visit us during this time of struggle and preparation, that when the Royal Doors are once again opened, and the King of all is invisibly escorted in… we may remember our immense blessings. May we turn from Pharisaical hypocrisy, false struggle, vanity, pride, selfishness, delusion, hardness of heart, and embrace humility, patience, understanding, and the wisdom which God offers to those who seek after it. May we take it upon ourselves to break ourselves from laxity and comfort, to free ourselves from the delusion of “freedom” and become a slave in Christ, that we may finally understand what freedom truly is…

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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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.