More Prayers and Reflections
"A PLACE WILL NOT SAVE US IF WE DO NOT CARRY OUT THE WILL OF GOD.' St. John Chrysostom
I will come into your house in the greatness of your mercy: and in fear I will worship your holy temple. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me, that with a clear mind I may glorify you forever, one divine power worshipped in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
PRAYER UPON LEAVING A CHURCH
Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people; a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.
St. John of Kronstadt
Verse 5: "You need not fear the terrors of night,
the arrow that flies in the daytime,
the plague that stalks in the dark,
the scourge that wrecks havoc in broad daylight.
Verse 10 "No disaster can overtake you,
no plague come near your tent:
He will put you in his angels' charge
to guard you wherever you go.
Verse 14: "I rescue all who cling to me,
I protect whoever knows my name,
I answer everyone who invokes me,
I am with them when they are in trouble;
I bring them safety and honor.
I give them life, long and full,
and show them how I can save."
O Lord, though I have done nothing good in your sight, grant that through your grace I may now make a good beginning.
O Lord, grant me tears, remembrance of death and humility; chastity, obedience, patience, courage and meekness
"IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER GOD THAN IT IS TO REMEMBER TO BREATH." Gregory of Nazinazus
LITANY OF HUMILITY
"O JESUS! MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART, HEAR ME.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honoured, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being perferred to others, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus. "
"That others may be loved more than I, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may increase and I may decrease, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That I may become as holy as I should, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it."
How everyone should prepare before Confession: Repentance "I will ponder all my years of bitterness of my soul." Is. 38:15 Naaman the Syrian washed seven times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:14). Why? For no other reason than to teach us all, small and great, patriarchs and hierarchs, Spiritual Fathers and priests to confess seven times, that is frequently and many times (for the number seven means many, according to the divine Scripture), and to wash in the waters of repentance, of which the Jordan was a type, for which reason the Forerunner was baptizing in it: "A baptism of repentance for the people." (Mark 1:4) Frequent confession vex-es the power of the demons.
Do not cease, therefore, from dedicating yourself to God, and fervently asking Him to strengthen your weaknesses and to make your will firm in the resolution you made with His grace and assistance from on high, hoping that He will hear you out of His great mercy, as He Himself promised: "If then he shall cry to Me, I will harken to him, for I am merciful." (Ex. 22:27) Keep vigil and pray, so that you do not fall into sin: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." (Mt. 26:41)
A Prayer: Most merciful Lord Jesus Christ my God, I thank Thee for deeming me, the sinner, worthy to receive forgiveness from Thee through the mystery of Confession to my Spiritual Father. So then, imitating David who said: "I have sworn and resolved that I will keep the judgments of Thy rightousness." (Ps. 118:106) I promise Thee, with the resolve of my soul, that I would rather die a thousand deaths than ever commit a single mortal sin again, and grieve Thine infinite goodness. But because my own will is weak on its own without Thy help, I fervently ask Thee to strengthen me with Thy grace, and establish me with Thy mighty help, so that I may remain steadfast in my resolution until the end. You, my most loving Jesus, enable me to pass the rest of my life in repentance, in order to receive Thy grace here below, and Thy blessed glory in heaven above. Through the intercessions of Thy supremely blessed Mother and of all Thy Saints. Amen
THIS IS THE CONDITION OF MAN WITHOUT GOD, the condition of people opposed to God
"People must be told that the source and the goal of their being and life is God. They must be reminded and informed of their true nature and calling. They must be aware that the root cause of their sorrows and fears, their dissatisfactions and frustrations, is the ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. (Rom. 1:18) For there is indeed a suppression of the truth due to wickedness and sin. The prophets of the Lord describe it with explosive and agonizing lucidity. And the apostles, especially Paul, are no less pathetic and powerful: . . . so they are without excuse; for although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened . . . Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity . . . because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator . . .And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless . . . (Romans 1:18-32)
Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying killing, stealing and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, and even the fish of the sea are taken away. . . I will punish them for their ways, and requite them for their deeds. They shall eat and not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the Lord (Hosea 4:1-10; Jeremiah 23; Ezekiel 34, Isaiah 5)
GROWING IN CHRIST, SHAPED IN HIS IMAGE Mother Raphaela
"Questions on the Web:
Delicate threads hold together the web of life. Threads that run through the universerse, broken so often by people's blindness; insensitivity. Threads that hold together if not the families of nations, then at least a Christian family, a monastery, a parish, a diocese, a national church, the worldwide communication of God's own people. Threads of care and consideration. Threads of speaking and sharing. Threads of attentively listening and hearing. Threads of openness and trust. Threads of respecting the role and vocation of others. Threads of common goals and tasks. Threads of putting aside one's own ideas and desires so that a larger group may flourish. Threads of laying down one's own life for one's friends. You say you love God: How can you love God whom you have not seen when you do not love your brother whom you see? How can you prove that you love your brother if you cannot live with him?
Do you allow Him to shine through you with His life, word, love, purity and joy or do people see only your opaque flesh doing efficiently the job you think is needed? Are you saying that you are not willing to open to others your mind and heart, to put aside to some degree your personal habits and desires so that you can experience the closeness of others, the closeness of men, women, children, in all states of life, as love rather than annoyance?
Explain to me then, how your love is other than superficial? Or a matter of your own convenience? Explain to me how Someone other than yourself is at the heart of your being?
Answer these questions so that I may know whether you are willing yet to face life and death; judgment and mercy.
You say this is too much? Then how dare you be in a position where you may deny others? How dare you say you are one who represents your Lord?
Or is there another lord in your life that you have not told us about? "
Fr. Seraphim warned of the dangers involved in the search for reality--the traps and deceptions he encounters in his search. " A person must be in the religious search not for the sake of religious experiences, but for the sake of Truth."
A CONVERT'S LETTER CONCERNING ORTHODOXY
"O Lord, why are they multiplied that afflict me? Many rise up against me. Many say unto my soul: There is no salvation for him in his God. But thou, O Lord, art my helper, my glory, and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His Holy mountain. I laid me down and slept; I awoke for the Lord will help me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord, save me,, O my God, for Thou hast smitten all who without cause are mine enemies; the teeth of sinners has Thou broken. Salvation is of the Lord, and Thy blessing is upon Thy people." Psalm 3
Deep down you're burning with zeal and thirst, serving the Church, weeping and shouting for joy at what God has opened up to you--that whole undreamed of heavenly world which the Church gives you the means to approach.
Deep down you want the full uncompromising Orthodox life. You want to give your whole heart and soul and strength to God. You're called to keep the spark alive and communicate it to others, producing fruit in Christ's harvest, perhaps in an unconventional way. Don't forget it! We go to the Lives of Saints and Holy Fathers and get out inspiration from them. Remember what Orthodoxy is: it is something first of all of the heart, not just the mind, something living and warm, not abstract and cold, something that is learned and practiced in life. Coming to Orthodoxy, you will find a wealth of teaching that is totally beyond even the best of non-Orthodox Christians. We who are already Orthodox have this treasure and this depth right in front of us (the Kingdom of God in our hearts).
The more you get your own wings in Orthodoxy by reading more, being exposed to contact with Orthodox people, the more you will begin to be able to feel your way in the realm of Orthodoxy. God is guiding the Church. We know that He is with the Church until the end. If we follow the simple path--=distrusting our own wisdom, doing the best we can yet realizing that our mind, without warmth of heart, is a very weak tool--then an Orthodox philosophy of life will begin to be formed in you.
All of our sanctity is based upon having your feet straight oh the ground, and while being on earth, constantly having the mind lifted upward, constantly thinking of the higher things; constantly looking upward to the Chief Shepherd Christ to the heavenly world of God's Truth. Bath in the depths of Christ. If you are an Orthodox Christian, you can do this and have people call you crazy or something like that; but still you have your own life--you lead it here on earth while constantly living in the heavenly world and you get to heaven.
All the learning of this world is of no importance beside the duty of worshiping God, accepting the God-man Who died for our sins and preparing for the life of the world to come. For as St. Paul said, " . . .all the wisdom of this world is but folly in the eyes of God." "Every man, by virtue of being human, must choose God or himself. We are but what we have chosen. And with our choice we indicate our preference for one Kingdom or other: for the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of self." Do we choose the acceptance or negation of Christ. Christ is our crisis; He demands from us all or nothing, and this problem He presents us is the only one that need be answered. Do we choose God, Who alone IS, or ourselves, nothingness, the abyss? This is the conscious spiritual struggle that yeilds a spiritual harvest. Our age is founded on nothingness--a wasteland of modern life; but this nothingness presents, for those who can still perceive, the crisis of all men in all ages. Our age tells us, if we can listen, to choose the living God.
I make a prostration before you and beg your forgiveness for my many sins and failings toward you. May God forgive and have mercy on us all.
With love in Christ,
-The Philokalia, published in 1782, contains enlightened explanations of what is mystically contained in the Bible according to the Eastern Church's interpretation from monastic Eastern writers that span more than a millennium from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries. The following text is from the Philokalia (a Greek word meaning "love of the beautiful").
"Union with God is not a subsidiary issue in faith or doctrine. It is the basis of all faith and doctrine. It is the ultimate aim of God for sending his only Son to the world to become man: "For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and on earth" (Ephesians 1:9-10) So the mystery of union between mankind and Christ is the ultimate aim of the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection--nay, of creation in full." Matthew the Poor
"Be attentive to yourself, so that nothing destructive can separate you form the love of God. Guard your heart, and do not grow listless and say: How shall I guard it, since I am a sinner? For when a man abandons his sins and returns to God, his repentance regenerates him and renews him entirely." St. Isaiah the Solitary
"Until a man is completely changed by repentance, he will be wise always to remember his sins with sorrow and to recall the eternal fire that they justly deserve." Evagrios the Solitary
"Stand guard, then, over your heart and keep watch on your senses; and if the remembrance of God dwells peaceably within you, you will catch the thieves when they try to deprive you of it. Those who recognize these evil thoughts for what they are remain undisturbed and continue in prayer to God." St. Isiah the Solitary "Guard your heart with all diligence." Proverbs 4:23
"When you feel the touch of the Eternal Spirit in your heart . . love streams like a light on all creation. Though the physical heart feels this love, in kind it is spiritual . . . Yet only those who keep a clear conscience not only before God but towards their neighbor, towards animals--even towards the material things which are the product of men's labor--will care for all creation. . . For the Divine Spirit draws the heart to compassion for all creation." Sophrony of Essex
"Prayer is the communion of the intellect with God." Evagrios the SOlitary
"Especially important is pure prayer--prayer that is unceasing and uninterrupted. Such prayer is a safe fortress, a sheltered harbor, a protector of virtues, a destroyer of passions. It brings vigor to the soul, purified the intellect, gives rest to those who suffer, consoles those who mourn. Prayer is contemplation of the invisible, the angelic mode of life, a stimulus toward the DIvine, the assurance of
things longed for. Pray day and night. Pray at times of dejection and at times of exhilaration. Pray with fear and trembling, with a watchful and vigilant mind so that prayer may be accepted by the Lord." St. Theodoros the Great Ascetic
"Noxious foods give trouble when taken into the body, but as soon as he feels the pain, the person who has eaten them can quickly take some emetic and so be unharmed. Similarly, once the intellect that has imbibed evil thoughts senses their bitterness, it can easily expel them and get rid of them completely by means of the Jesus Prayer, uttered from the depths of the heart. This lesson, and the experience corresponding to it, have by God's grace conveyed understanding to those who practice watchfulness." St. Hesychios the Priest
"It does not lie within our power to decide whether or not the passions are going to harass and attack the soul. But it does lie within our power to prevent impassioned thoughts from lingering within us and arousing the passions to action. The first of these conditions is not sinful, inasmuch as it is outside our control, where the second is concerned, if we fight against the passions and overcome them we are rewarded, but we shall be punished if because of laziness and cowardice we let them overcome us." St. Theodoros the Great Ascetic
"There are three principal passions, through which all the rest arise: love of sensual pleasure, love of riches, and love of praise. Close in their wake follow five other evil spirits, and from these five arise a great swarm of passions and all manner of evil. Thus he who defeats the three leaders and rulers simultaneously overcomes the other five and so subdues all the passions." St Theodoros the Great Ascetic
" Christ is the capstone (Ephesians 2:20) uniting us with Himself. He is the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:46): when one plunges into the depths of stillness and it is this for which one sells all his own desires through obedience to the commandments, so that one may acquire it even in this life." St. Gregory of Sinai
"Stillness is an undisturbed state of the intellect, the calm of a free and joyful soul, the tranquil unwavering stability of the heart in God, the contemplation of light, the knowledge of the mysteries of God, consciousness of wisdom by virtue of a pure mind, the abyss of divine intellections, the rapture of the intellect, intercourse with God, an unsleeping watchfulness, spiritual prayer, untroubled repose in the midst of great hardship, and fially, solidarity and union with God." Nikitas Sitthatos
from THE WISDOM OF THE DESERT FATHERS:
Abbot Pastor said: "Just as bees are driven out by smoke, and their honey is taken away from them, so a life of ease drives out the fear of the Lord from man's soul and takes away all his good works."
"Father, h ow can you be so happy when you are deprived of the consolation of books?" St. Anthony replied: "My book, O philosopher, is the nature of created things, and any time I want to read the words of God, the book is before me."
Abbot Joseph asked Abbot Pastor: "Tell me how I can become a monk. The elder replied: If you want to have rest here in this life and also in the next, in every conflict with another say: Who am I? And judge no one."
Abbot Agatho frequently admonised his disciple, saying: "Never acquire for yourself anything that you might hesitate to give to your brother if he asked you for it, for thus you would be found a transgressor of God's command. If anyone asks, give it to him, and if anyone wants to borrow from you, do not turn away from him."
Abbot Poemen said: "That man who hates evil hates his own sins, and looks upon every brother as a saint, and loves him as a saint."
Abbot John said: "When evil thoughts are aroused by the enemy, he should fly, by prayer, to the Lord, and he will be saved."
Blessed Macarius said: "This is the truth, if a man regards contempt as praise, poverty as riches, and hunger as a feast, he will never die."
An elder said: "A man who keeps death before his eyes will at all times overcome his cowardice."
A certain brother asked Abbot Pambo: "Why do the devils pevent me from doing good to my neighbor? And the elder said to him: Don't talk like that. Is God a liar? Why don't you just admit that you do not want to be merciful? Didn't God say long ago: " I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and on all the forces of the enemy? So why do you not stamp down the evil spirit?"
Abbot Pastor said: "If a man has done wrong and does not deny it, but says: I did wrong, do not rebuke him, because you will break the resolution of his soul. And if you tell him: Do not be said, brother, but watch it in the future, you stir him up to change his life."
Abbot Hyperichius said: "A man who cannot hold his tongue when he is angry will not be able to control the passion of lust either."
from : THE DIARY OF A RUSSIAN PRIEST "Absolution, the remission of sins, is given by God according to the measure of our repentance and faith."
"Childlikeness is lost in life and regained in holiness."
"We are all fortunate if only because of the fact that we belong to the Orthodox Church, which has taught us to pray, which has disclosed to us all the wisdom we are capable of receiving, and which continues to teach us, visibly or invisibly. We know the Way and the Truth and the Life. How many great minds and hearts have suffered entanglement and perished without having found truth; yet we possess it."
"The majority of the problems of life--sorrows, inner difficulties--of which one hears during confession, are due to the fact that men live outside the Church, yet appeal to the Church for the solution of their difficulties. They have no determination to change their life. Enter the Church, accept the entire order of Church life, and then the difficulties solve themselves."
"And when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it (i Cor. 12:26) is said of the Church. If we do not feel this, we are not within the Church."
Often the words of psalms and prayers do not touch us, their inner meaning seems strange and incomprehensible to us. And this is quite natural, for the whole setting and structure of our life--
outwardly well-organized and inwardly empty--have so very little in common with the deserts and monasteries in which the prayers were composed, with the spirit which inspired them. At rare moments-in great affliction, in solitude, if we escape for a time from the gondes of the world--there arises from our heart, as if it were our very own, the cry of lamentation: "O Lord, come to my help!" Then we understand the experience of the man of silence and the recluse.
St. Simeon the New Theologian says: "Anger and remembrance of wrongs, which have their basis in pride, cause turmoil in the heart. Obedience is the first way to set at naught this uprooting, whereby prayer is rendered unfruitful; it brings about humility, and humility reduces hardness of heart--in which prayer dies--to nothing. It banishes confusion, during which times prayer is so necessary. It swabs the heart with tenderness, from which prayer comes to life, takes wing, an flies upward toward God."
Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.
St. John Chrysostom says that laypeople must read Scripture more regularly than monks because Bible study corrects the bad effects of life's circumstances on our spirituality:
I am always encouraging you to pay attention not only to what is said here in chruchs, but also, when you are at home, to continue constantly in the practice of reading the divine Scriptures . . . For let not anyone say to me those silly, comtemptible words, "I'm tied up with political affairs." "I'm in an apprentice program." "I've got a wife." "I'm raising kids." "I'm responsible for a household." "I'm a businessman." "Reading the Bible isn't my thing. That's for those who are set apart, for those who have made the mountaintops their home, who have a way of life without interruptions."
What are you saying, man? It's not your business to pay attention to the Bible because you are distracted by thousands of concerns? Then Bible reading belongs more to you than to the monks! For they do not make as much use of the help of the divine Scriptures as those who always have a great many things to do . . . But you are always standing in the line of battle and are constantly being hit, so you need more medicine. For not only does your spouse irritate you, but your son annoys you, a friend envies you, a neighbor insults you, a colleague trips you up. An enemy schemes against you. Often a lawsuit impends, poverty distresses, loss of possessions brings sorrow. At one moment success puffs you up; at another, failure deflates you. Numerous powerful inducements to anger and anxiety, to discouragement and grief, to vanity and loss of sense surround us on every side. A thousand missiles rain down from every direction. And so we constantly need the whole range of equipment supplied by Scripture.
Since many things of this kind besiege our soul, we need the divine medicines, so that we might treat the wounds we already have, and so that we might check beforehand the wounds that are not yet, but are going to be, from afar extinguishing the missiles of the devil and repelling them through the constant reading of the divine Scriptures. For it is not possible, not possible for anyone to be saved who does not constantly have the benefit of spiritual reading.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Abbot Poemen said, "Tell me, what is it to hate evil? That man hates evil who hates his own sins, and looks upon every brother as a saint, and loves him as a saint."
Abbot John said, "When evil thoughts are aroused by the enemy, one should fly, by prayer, to the Lord, and he will be saved."
Abbot Zeno, the disciple of Abbot Sylvanus, said: "No one ought to inquire how this one acts, or how that one lives. Questions like this take us away from prayer and draw us on to backbitting and chatter. There is nothing better than to keep quiet."
Blessed Macarius said: "This is the truth, if you regard comtempt as praise, poverty as riches, and hunger as a feast, he will never die."
Abbot Hor said to his disciple: "A man who keeps death before his eyes will at all times overcome his cowardice."
Abbot Sylvanus said, "Do not dwell in a place where you see that others are envious of you, for you will not grow there."
Abbot Pastor said, "Even if an angry man were to revive the dead, he would not be pleasing to God because of his anger."
Abbot Agatho would say: "Which is greater? Bodily asceticism, or whatchfullness over the interior man? The elder said: A man is like a tree. His bodily works are like the leaves of the tree, but interior self-custody is like the fruits. Since then, it is written that every tree not bearing good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire, we must take all care to bear this fruit, which is custody of the mind. But we alsos need leaves to cover and adorn us: and that means good works done with the aid of the body. This Abbot Agatho was wise in understanding and tireless in his work and ready for everything. He applied himself energetically to manual labour, and was sparing in his food and clothing."
Abbot Evagrius said, "Just as a bee, wherever she goes, makes honey, so too us, wherever we go, if we go to do the will of God, we can always produce the spritual sweetness of good works."
Abbot Mathois said, "This is the truth, if you regard contempt as praise, poverty as riches, and hunger as a feast, you will never die."
Theophilus of holy memory, Bishop of Alexandria, said to Abbot Pambo: "A man who keeps death before his eyes will at all times overcome his cowardice."
Abbot HKyperichius said, " Poverty, tribulation and discretion: these are the three works of the holy life. For if these three actions are found in a man, then God dwells in him."
Abbot Bessarion, dying, said: "Get away from any man who always argues every time he talks."
Abbot Sisois said, "Just as it is impossible for a man to see his face in troubled water, so too the soul, unless it be cleansed of alien thoughts, cannot pray to God in contemplation."
Abbot Lot to Abbot Joseph said, "according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into fire?"
A brother in Scete inquired saying: " What shall I do? I lose my nerve when I am sitting alone at prayer in my cell? The elder said to him: Despise no one, condemn no one, rebuke no one, God will give you peace and your meditation will be undisturbed."
Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!" (Matt. 9,11) Scripture tells us that John was to be set apart from birth--his very name, meaning "the Lord is merciful," given by God. The angel Gabriel instructed the would-be prophet's parents that he was to drink no wine or liquor, indicating that John would live a simple life, foregoing the amenities his contempories in the cities would enjoy. Some scholars have suggested that it's possible John lived as a Nazirite--a type of ancient Jewish ascetic who abstained and observed other customs of self-denial.
Scripture doesn't have much to say about his life prior to baptising the Lord. But the gospel of Matthew tells us his messsage was so convincing that "Jersalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan" (Matt. 3:5). The text gives the impression that great numbers of people came to John, wondering if he was the Messsiah; John didn't hesitate to deny it, saying of Jesus, "I am not fit to remove His sandals." (v. 11)
The call of the Christian life, as John exemplifies, is to find that wilderness of the heart--in plenty or in want--an uncluttered inner landscape where God can meet us unobstructed. 1 Peter 2:11 we live as strangers in a foreign land. The fruit of the Spirit is not merely about our behavior but the constitution of our true selves--who and what we're made to be, a people set apart for God.
The Lord said that where our treasure lies, there our hearts will be also (Matt.6:21). The issue is one of attachment, not how much we possess
Ever since Jesus answered the question, "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:25-37), Christians have been challenged to reexamine the ways we treat each other.
In Jesus' time there was no such thing as a "good samaritan." The very idea that Jesus would elevate a Samaritan to hero status was a scandalous notion for those who heard Christ's parable for the first time.
The challenge for most of us is to respect those who are unlike us. Yet, Jesus' mandate is unequivocal: "Love your enemies and pray for them who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:44, 45). The passage concludes with this clear imperative: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (verse 48)
Evidently perfection, as Christ defined it, has something to do with how well we love others--even those we think underserving of our love.
The disciples one day, noticing a blind man, asked Jesus what they thought was a profound and enlightened question: "Rabbi, who sinner, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2) Isn't that typical? In our world one of our first impulses is to try to lay blame, to make someone responsible for the situation. Jesus' response was both a rebuke and a challenge to that type of blame-gaming. He said simply, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . .this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (John 9:3)
In a world filled with lack of morals and values, in a society in decline, nothing can prevent us from displaying God's love to the people with whom our lives intersect. Jesus' mandate to his disciples in the upper room was never more necessary than it is now: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one anlother. By this everyone will knows that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34,35). We aren't called to change one another, we're called simply to love one another.
"Christ is waiting with longing desire for a manifestation of Himself in His church," wrote a Christian writer. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come and claim them as His own."
Christ's character is primarily revealed in the way we demonstrate His unconditional love to our neighbors, however we define the word.
The Very Rev. Paul Solberg
"The helping of others, the giving of alms, and all external goods don't calm the arrogance of the heart. Humility of the mind, the pain of repentance and the breaking of the will, however, humble the proud spirit." Elder Joseph the Hesychast