On Humility

I found this over at Orthodox Christian Life and it is utterly delightful, deeply convicting, and hopefully uplifting! Read and share! May St. John’s words bless you and guide; may his prayers intercede for you!

On Humility

By St. John of Kronstadt

When you are slandered, and therefore grow disturbed and sick at heart, it shows that pride is in you, and that it must be wounded and driven out by outward dishonour. Therefore do not be irritated by derision, and do not bear malice against those who hate you and slander you, but love them as your physicians, whom God has sent you to instruct you and to teach you humility, and pray to God for them. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you.”[131] Say to yourself, “It is not me that they slander, but my evil passions; not me that they strike, but that viper which nestles in my heart, and smarts when anybody speaks ill of it. I will comfort myself with the thought that, perhaps, these good people will drive it from my heart by their caustic words, and my heart will then cease to ache. “Therefore, thank God for outward dishonour: those who endure dishonour here will not be subjected to it in the next world.” She hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”[132] “Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works for us.”[133]

We must by every means humble our hearts and subdue our proud intellect, lest we should be like the contemporaries of the prophets, who looked on them only as sweet-voiced singers, and nothing more; they did not wish to fulfil their commands, they even despised, persecuted, beat, and killed them; lest we should be like those, by whom “no prophet is accepted in his own country.”[167] However insignificant and unimportant the man may be, honour in him the image of God, especially when he speaks with love, and, above all, when he speaks of and does the works of love.

When anyone blames the imperfections and faults of your works, humbly acknowledge the justice of such censure, and say: “Yes, it is true, I am sinful, most sinful, I do not do my work with due care and willingness. Pray for me brother” — (saying thus to him who blames you) — “that the Lord may teach and help me, by His grace, to fulfil the duties of my calling and the work of serving others with due care and willingness.” Should anyone find fault with your abilities, say: “I do not give myself such and not other abilities, they are the gift of God; therefore to find fault with my abilities is the same as to find fault with the Creator, Who gave them.” When your own relations blame you and expose your weaknesses in the hearing of others, say to them: “I am truly such as you describe me; but it is no advantage to you that I am really such, nor that you should defame me and mock at me: to mock at the infirmity or weakness of your brother is foolish and inhuman; it is better to hide such an infirmity, because my infirmity is your infirmity, my shame is your shame; for I am your member, and you, too, are not without infirmity; let us, therefore, pray that the Lord may heal our infirmities, for all of us are infected with the leprosy of iniquity.” “Charity,” it is said, “endureth all things,”[1420] and does not put weaknesses to shame.

When your heart inclines to evil, and the evil one begins to undermine your heart, so that it is completely removed from the rock of faith, then say to yourself inwardly: “I know of my spiritual poverty, my own nothingness without faith. I am so weak, that it is only by Christ’s name that I live and obtain peace, that I rejoice and my heart expands, whilst without Him I am spiritually dead, I am troubled, and my heart is oppressed; without the Lord’s Cross I should have been long since the victim of the most cruel distress and despair. Only Christ keeps me alive: and the Cross is my peace and my consolation.”

Consider yourself worse and more infirm than all others in spiritual respects, and despise, hate yourself for your sins, — this is pious and right — and be indulgent to others, respect and love them in spite of their sins, for God’s sake, Who commanded us to respect and love all men, and also because they are created after His image — although they bear the wounds of sin, and because they are members of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual poverty consists in esteeming oneself as though not existing, and God alone as existing; in honouring His words above everything in the world, and in not sparing anything to fulfil them, even one’s own life; in considering God’s Will in everything, both for ourselves and others, entirely renouncing our own will. The man who is poor in spirit desires and says with his whole heart: “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” It is as though he himself disappears; everywhere and in everything he wishes to see God — in himself and in others. “Let everything be Thine, not mine. “He wishes to contemplate God’s holiness in himself and in all — His kingdom, also His Will; also to see Him alone entirely filling the human heart, as it should be, because He alone is All-merciful and All-perfect, All-creating; whilst the enemy — the Devil and his instruments, and those who oppose God — are thieves in the kingdom of God, and adversaries of God. To him who is poor in spirit the whole world is as nothing. Everywhere he sees God alone giving life to everything, and ruling everything; for him there is no place without God, no moment without God; everywhere and at every minute he is with God, and as though with Him alone. He who is poor in spirit does not dare and does not think of trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, to discover God’s mysteries, to philosophise on the highest; he believes in the single word of the Lord, the Life-giver, knowing that every word of His is truth, spirit, and eternal life; and in the words of His Church, ever instructed in all truth by the Holy Spirit, he believes as a child believes his father or mother, not requiring proofs, but perfectly relying upon them. He who is poor in spirit considers himself the very last and the most sinful of all, reckons himself worthy of being trampled under foot by everyone.

If you truly wish to be humble, then long to be in every way offended and persecuted, as a hungry man longs for food; for by the justice of God you are worthy of this.

If you wish to be truly humble, then consider yourself lower than all, worthy of being trampled on by all; for you yourself daily, hourly trample upon the law of the Lord, and therefore upon the Lord Himself.

What is a pure heart? It is meek, humble, guileless, simple, trusting, true, unsuspicious, gentle, good, not covetous, not envious, not adulterous.

All you who draw near to serve God in prayer, learn to be like Him, meek, humble, and true of heart; do not let there be any deceitfulness or duplicity nor coldness in your soul.

If, during service, your brother does anything irregularly, or somewhat negligently, do not become irritated, either inwardly or outwardly with him, but be generously indulgent to his fault, remembering that during your life you yourself commit many, many faults, that you yourself are a man with all infirmities, that God is long-suffering and most merciful, and that he forgives you and all of us our iniquities an innumerable multitude of times. Remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” These words should always remind us that we ourselves at all times are great trespassers, great sinners before God, and that, remembering this, we should be humble in the depths of our hearts, and not be very severe to the faults of our brethren, weak like ourselves; that as we do not judge ourselves severely, we must not judge others severely, for our brethren are — our members, like ourselves. Irritability of temper proceeds from want of self-knowledge, from pride, and also from the fact that we do not consider the great corruption of our nature, and know but little the meek and humble Jesus.

The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who fills the whole universe, passes through all believing, meek, humble, good, and simple human souls, dwelling in them, vivifying and strengthening them.

But at the same time, the Lord said: “Be harmless as doves;” that is, simple and guileless. Borrow from the serpent his wisdom only, but let your heart remain simple, pure, and uncorrupt. Be meek and humble as I am; do not give yourself up to wrath and irritability, for “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God;”[303] keep yourself pure from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit.

When a man is about to pray, he must humble his proud heart, must cast away earthly vanity from it, and must bring into it living and undoubting faith.

Why does the Lord allow people to be poor? For the same reason, amongst others, that He does not make you righteous all at once according to your wish. God might have made all men well off, even rich; but then a great forgetfulness of God would have arisen, and pride, envy, and so forth, would have increased. And you would have thought too highly of yourself had the Lord made you soon righteous. But as sin humbles you, showing you your great infirmity, impurity, and constant need of God and His grace, so likewise the poor man is humbled by poverty and his need of other people. If the poor were to be enriched, many of them would forget God and their benefactors, would ruin their souls in the luxury of this world. So destructive are riches, and so do they blind the spiritual vision! They make the heart gross and ungrateful!

Be as kind, meek, humble, and simple as possible in your intercourse with all, considering yourself not hypocritically inferior to all in respect to your spiritual condition; that is, more sinful and weaker than all. Say to yourself, “Of all sinners I am the first.” From pride proceeds self-sufficiency, coldness, and insincerity in our behaviour to our inferiors, or to those from whom we do not expect to obtain any advantage.

Our self-love and pride manifest themselves especially in impatience and irritability when some of us cannot bear the slightest unpleasantness intentionally, or even unintentionally, caused us by others; or obstacles lawfully or unlawfully, intentionally or unintentionally, opposed to us by men, or caused by the objects surrounding us. Our self-love and pride would like everything to be as we wish, that we should be surrounded by every honour and comfort of this temporal life; would like all men, and even — how far is pride carried! — all nature itself, to speedily and silently obey a sign from us; whilst, alas! we ourselves are very slow to faith and to every good work — slow to please the one Master of all. Christian! you must absolutely be humble, meek, and long-suffering, remembering that you are clay, dust, nothingness; that you are impure; that everything good that you have is from God; that your life, your breath and everything you possess are God’s gifts; that for your sins of disobedience and intemperance you ought now to redeem your future blessedness in Paradise by the long-suffering which is indispensable in this world of imperfections and innumerable transgressions of the fallen men living together with us, and forming the numerous members of the one sin-sullied human race.” Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”[453] He who is impatient and irritable does not know himself and the human race, and is unworthy of the name of Christian. In saying this, I pronounce judgment against myself, for I am the first of those who are afflicted with impatience and irritability.

Receive everyone who comes to you, especially with a spiritual purpose, with a kind and cheerful aspect, although he or she may be a beggar, and humble yourself inwardly before everybody, counting yourself lower than he or she, for you are placed by Christ Himself to be the servant of all, and all are His members, although like you they bear the wounds of sin.

In order that men should esteem and love each other, should not be proud, should not be arrogant to each other, the most wise Lord has given to different men different natural and beneficial advantages, so that they may have need of each other. In this manner each one of us must involuntarily acknowledge this or that infirmity and humble himself before God and men.

Do not be despondent and do not fall into despair when you feel within your soul the deadly breath and ferment of malice and evil, impatience and blasphemy, or any weakness from impure thoughts; but fight against them unremittingly and endure valiantly, calling with all your heart upon the Lord Jesus — the Conqueror of hell. Humble yourself deeply, deeply, acknowledging yourself from the depths of your soul as the first of sinners, unworthy of human fellowship, and the Lord, seeing your humility and your struggle, will help you. Call also to your help the speedy Mediatrix, the Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, saying: ” Heal, most pure Lady, the many painful wounds of my soul, and strike the enemies constantly fighting against me.”[481]

Through masterful, or rather through mercenary pride and incomprehensible wickedness, we often do not deign to speak to those whom we feed and support, often behaving inimically to them, instead of rather humbling ourselves before them as their servants, in accordance with the words of the Lord. “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant,”[490] so as to redouble our recompense of the Lord by sincerely and unfeignedly serving Him in the person of the least of His brethren. O, meek and humble-hearted Creator, Giver of Life, Redeemer, our Nourisher, and Preserver — Lord Jesus! teach us love, meekness, and humility through Thy Holy Spirit, and strengthen us in those virtues which are most pleasing to Thee, so that Thy rich gifts may not make our hearts proud, so that we may not deem that it is we ourselves who feed, provide, and support anyone. Thou art the universal Nourisher. Thou feedest, providest, supportest, and preservest all; under the wings of Thy mercy, bounty, and loving kindness all are provided for and are given rest — not under ours, for we ourselves have need of being covered with the shadow of Thy wings at every moment of our life. Our eyes are fixed upon Thee, our God, as “the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress: even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until He have mercy upon us.”[491] Amen.

If Christ is in you through the frequent communion of the Holy Sacrament, then be yourself wholly like unto Christ: meek, humble, long-suffering, full of love, without attachment to earthly things, meditating upon heavenly ones, obedient, reasonable. Have His spirit unfailingly within you. Do not be proud, impatient, partial to earthly things, avaricious, and covetous.

It is unpleasant for a proud man when it is required of him to be humble to others; for an envious man when it is required of him to wish his enemies well…

“Every valley” and dale “shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight . . . and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”[560] The valley and dale are humble hearts. The mountain and hill shall be brought low — that is, proud men who think highly of themselves, and despise the lowly and humble. So it is: the Lord unceasingly acts through the spirit of righteousness and mercy in the hearts of men, humbling the proud by various worldly circumstances — by maladies, losses, humiliations from other people, and exalting the humble.

Strive by every means constantly to rejoice the Heavenly Father by your life; that is, by your meekness, humility, gentleness, obedience, abstinence, right judgment, love of peace, patience, mercy, sincere friendship with worthy people, kindness to everybody, cordial hospitality, universal benevolence, accuracy in business, simplicity of heart and character, and by the purity of all your thoughts. Teach and strengthen us, O God, to live in accordance with Thy Will, for Thou art our Father, and we are Thy children, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

But, in accordance with Christian love, you must be indulgent in every possible way to the faults of your neighbour, you must cure him of his wickedness, of his spiritual infirmity (for every coldness, every passion is an infirmity) by love, kindness, meekness, humility, as you yourself would wish to receive from others, when you suffer from a similar infirmity. For who is not subject to infirmity? Whom does the most evil enemy spare? Lord! destroy all the snares of the enemy in us.

Should thoughts of self-praise, of self-satisfaction, occur to you, say: “I myself am nothing; all that is good in me is accomplished by the grace of God.” “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?”[675] “Without Me ye can do nothing.”[676] Should the thought of despising any of your neighbours, or of your family occur to you, say: “The entire man is the beautiful work of God’s hands; everything in him is very well ordered.” For “it was very good.”[677]

To love God with all your heart means — to love with all your soul meekness, humility, purity and chastity, wisdom, truth, mercy, obedience, for the sake of God, and never to act contrarily to these virtues; that is, not to become proud, irritated, angry against anyone; not to commit adultery even in the heart; not to violate chastity, either by look, thought, or gesture; to avoid every inconsiderate, needless word and deed; to shun every iniquity; to hate avarice and covetousness; to flee from self-will and disobedience.

The Nativity of Christ. — He has come upon earth, He Who in the beginning created us from earth and breathed His Divine breath into us; He has come Who ” giveth to all life, and breath, and all things”[996]; He has come, He Who by a single word called all things visible and invisible from non-existence into existence, Who by a word called into being birds, fishes, quadrupeds, insects, and all creatures, existing under His almighty providence and care; He has come, He Whom the innumerable hosts of Angels continually serve with fear and joy. And in what humility has He come! He is born of a poor Virgin, in a cave, wrapped in poor swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. Riches, honours, glory of this world! fall down, fall down in humility, tearful devotion, and deep gratitude before the Saviour of men, and share your riches with the poor and needy. Do not pride yourselves on your visionary, fleeting distinctions, for true distinction can only be found in virtue… learn here, before the manger, your vanity. Thus, let us all humble ourselves; let us all fall down in the dust before the boundless humility and exhaustion of the Sovereign of all, of God, Who has come to heal our infirmities, to save us from pride, vanity, corruption, and every sinful impurity.

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s purpose for us is to drive away from our hearts falsehood (flattery), pride, and diabolical malice, and to implant in the place of these His truth, love, meekness, and humility.

When anyone, out of kindness, praises you to others, and they transmit these praises to you, do not consider them as a just tribute of esteem really due to you, but ascribe them solely to the kindness of heart of the person who thus spoke of you, and pray to God for him, that God may strengthen him in his kindness of heart and in every virtue; but acknowledge yourself to be the greatest of sinners, not out of humility, but truthfully, actually, knowing as you do your evil deeds.

If you meet with inattention or even disdain from strangers, do not be hurt or take offence at it, but say to yourself: “I am worthy of this. Glory to Thee, my Lord, that Thou hast granted unto me, an unworthy one, to receive dishonour from men like unto myself!” On your part always show love to all, especially to your relations, sincerely, zealously, heartily, loudly; not coldly and languidly, hypocritically, reluctantly, as if in a whisper.

A deep feeling of spiritual poverty, a lamentation at the existence of evil, a thirst after salvation, are to be found in every straightforward and humble soul.

If you wish to be humble, consider yourself worthy of all malice and hatred on the part of others, and of every calumny. Do not grow irritated, and do not nourish malice against those who bear malice against you, slander you, or falsely blame you. Say: “Holy Father, Thy will be done! “Remember the words of the Lord: ” The servant is not greater than his Lord; if the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.”[1396] If the world hated Him, the Most-righteous, the Most-merciful, then why should it be wonderful if other people hate you, a sinful and evil man?

Prayer is the constant feeling of our own spiritual poverty and infirmity, the contemplation in ourselves, in others, and in nature of the works of the great wisdom, mercy, and almighty power of God; prayer is — a continually grateful frame of mind.

Footnotes
[131] St. Matthew v. 44.
[132] Isaiah xl. 2.
[133] Isaiah xxvi. 12.
[167] St. Luke iv. 24.
[303] James i. 20.
[453] Galatians vi. 2.
[481] Canon to the Guardian Angel.
[490] St. Matthew xx. 26.
[491] Psalm cxxiii. 2.
[560] St. Luke iii. 5, 6.
[676] St. John xv. 5.
[677] Genesis i. 31.
[996] Acts xvii. 25.
[1396] St. John xiii. 16; xv. 18.
[1420] 1 Corinthians xiii. 7.

Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt.

Eucharistic Reflections on 2013

1476109_10202253730839014_1193701229_nI spent the end of 2013 doing what my Johnson pals and I call living in the past with my Johnson yearbooks. All 5 years (freshman and sophomore on top; junior, senior, super senior on bottom)! Bringing in the new year by recalling past years called to mind some things in 2013 that are good things. 1512500_10202222937469199_885622157_n

2013 did contain some really big life events for which I’m grateful and for which I want to offer my thanksgiving to God:

  1. Courtney and I were chrismated into the Orthodox Catholic Church on Feb. 3rd on The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple at St. Anne Orthodox Church.chrismation
  2. Graduated with a B.S. in Bible and Preaching/Church Leadership from Johnson University on May 3rd.936162_10200711365720850_751389834_n
  3. Courtney and I got our first pet and puppy together, Charlie, our Chihuahua. We also got our first cat, Heisenberg.
  4. We moved to Oak Ridge to be closer to our parish, St. Anne Orthodox Church, to get to know our wonderful priest and parish family better.
  5. We got full time jobs with USAA at a call center that allow us to keep the bills paid and have insurance/benefits. It gives us a warm bed, food, and a car.
  6. We bought our first new car, a ’13 Honda Civic LX coupe, together, well, we got it on lease.
  7. We both learned more and grew more together in our second year of marriage.
  8. My little sister joined me as a fellow college graduate! 1510528_10202181025861435_1494886242_n

This is just a short list. Our failure as human beings is to offer unto God thanksgiving for our many blessings bestowed to us by Him. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. I do everyday. I ask for forgiveness from God on this and from you. Let us always keep a grateful heart for whatever we encounter. Glory to God for all things big or small. May His mercy be with us in this new year!

“When man stands before the throne of God, when he has fulfilled all that God has given him to fulfill, when all sins are forgiven, all joy restored, then there is nothing else for him to do but to give thanks.  Eucharist (thanksgiving) is the life of paradise.  Eucharist is the only full and real response of man to God’s creation, redemption and gift of heaven.  But this perfect man who stands before God isChrist.  In Him alone all that God has given man was fulfilled and brought back to heaven.  He alone is the perfect Eucharistic Being.  He is the Eucharist of the world. In and through this Eucharist the whole creation becomes what it always was to be and yet failed to be.” -Father Alexander Schmemann “For the Life of the World” (p. 38)

Let Our Faith Towards God Go Out (An Exhortation to Christians in America)

ImageAt first site of this blog title, one may be inclined to think that this is going to address the losing of faith. I mean, it is entitled “Let Our Faith Towards God Go Out”, so it is reasonable to assume as much, However, this post is not at all about losing faith, faith diminishing, or the flame dying. In fact, it is going to be about the exact opposite of those things.

Last night, for some odd reason, I was drawn to read I Thessalonians. I suspect that this was the Spirit leading me since I had pondered some other thoughts from these two books concerning a discussion on eschatology that I had had earlier in the day. I began reading I Thessalonians chapter one, which says:

And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,  so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.  For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

It becomes quite clear to one reading that the Christians in Thessalonica were incredibly well known for their faith in God. These folks were part of a community founded in the summer of 50 A.D. during what would have been St. Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22).  Verse 9 indicates that they were not composed of primarily Jewish believers as much of the early Church was, but in fact were former pagans, Gentiles, who had heard the Gospel and became disciples. Due to this they were often treated with hostility from fellow citizens often stirred up by the Jews (1:6; 2:14; Acts 17:5-9).  In an extremely pagan society and setting, they had difficulty adhering to Christian values.

My point in addressing their background is not to mention the hostility they faced nor to draw a line of comparison to the persecution, or perceived persecution, between their persecution and ours in this land of darkness in America. My point is to address their incredible faith and their setting, a pagan culture and society.

St. Paul says that they faith had reached distant areas so much so that St. Paul and his team did not have to tell others about these Thessalonian Christians. Their faith in God was standing on its own. They were faithful believers of Christ among a cesspool of paganism and persecution.

My reading of this caused me to immediately think of Christians living in America. Despite arguments over persecution there is no arguing over whether or not we are living in a pagan culture. We are! There is no arguing over whether or not America’s society is post-Christian. It is! This lead me to think of whether or not St. Paul could say this of our faith. Could he?

In a pagan society such as our own, how do we let our faith towards God go out? I believe we must begin by becoming serious disciples of Jesus Christ. Christians often believe shallowly in America. Our faith is a mile wide, but an inch deep. Christ does not require us to be perfect disciples, but serious disciples. We begin by being serious about cleansing our lives of idols. St. Paul says these Christians turned from their idols and false gods to the serve the true and living God.

I believe we begin to let our faith toward God go out by becoming eucharistic people who live eucharistic lives. Our fall from faith comes from not being thankful. “The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world,” writes Father Alexander Schmemann in “For the Life of the World”. We were made to be priest who offer back to God the creation which He gifted to us in adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. When we fail to do this in our setting our faith is diminished and it receives a bad name.

Another way we can begin to let our faith towards God go out is to become bearers of pain for those in pain. And by pain I mean those who are hungry. The pain of hunger is deeply felt by those who have not found their food and drink in Christ. Too often Christians in this country scandalize the faith and Christ by our actions be it through our social-political power grabs, culture wars, or snobby attitudes. Instead of befriending those who are hurting and preaching the Gospel to them softly and through love we shout that which is not the Gospel with hate! We are to go out from our fellowship with one another and take Christ to those who are hungry.

Man is hungry. I believe this hunger is spiritual, but affects us holistically. Father Alexander Schemman writes in “For the Life of the World”:

Man is a hungry being. But he is hungry for God. Behind all the hunger of our life is God. All desire is finally a desire for Him. To be sure, man is not the only hungry being. All that exists lives by ‘eating’. The whole creation depends on food. But the unique position of man in the universe is that he alone is to blessed God for the food and the life he receives from Him. He alone is to respond to God’s blessing with his blessing.”

We have chosen to respond to God’s blessing with His blessing, but so often we fail to take the food and drink, Christ, to those who are hungry. I believe that if we begin to be gracious and gentle among those who are living in this darkness that we would see greater openness to the Gospel. We would see our faith go out to them.

“Everyone is called to willingly suffer for Christ. Of we truly did this, we would judge others less harshly because our own broken heart would understand how to love,” writes Father Stephen Freeman. Those who are hungry are indeed suffering. We all suffer in different ways. We Christians know about suffering, we are called to enter into it on our cross. If we truly began to live on our crosses we would be able to enter into the suffering of others in their hunger.  For our faith towards God to go out, I believe we have to learn to suffer on our crosses, to learn what it means to be human, to empathize with those who hunger, so that we can love them as Christ loves them rather than judge them.

I believe these were maybe some of the same Christians practices, virtues, and beliefs that the Christians in Thessalonica had trouble living out in a pagan setting, however, their faith in God was so strong and so vibrant and so alive that it went out towards those around them.

I am aware that I am rambling on without much organization, so please pardon the unorganized nature of this post. My goal is to talk about the faith of these Christians, raise questions about how we live in a similar setting, and ask how we can live our lives in faith so that we may see that faith go out. I am simply presenting a few ways in which we could begin to live in a manner in which our faith towards God goes out.

My prayer is that we who profess Christ will begin to live such holy lives full of vibrant faith among a pagan culture that our faith towards the living true God goes out among all. I do believe the biggest way we can do this is to become joyous people once again. We have found the food and drink of Christ, which gives us life and light. Someone once said that a “Joyless Christianity is a demonic caricature of itself!” I believe that is right! We are to be filled with the joy of Christ in His Eucharist. We take into us divinity in that moment of partaking of the Eucharist and we are to then take that joy to the world, to our culture, to our neighborhood, to the lost, to our friends, and to the hungry.

Today, let your faith towards God go out among our culture. Let it be a light to those in the darkness. Go out and live in a eucharistic way among those who hunger. Come along side them in their pain and walk them out of it. Be gracious with your actions and words. Suffer with those who suffer. Live in Christ and take Him to the world. Live your faith in God in such a way that those around us see it and may believe. Turn from any idol in your life and believe in the true God, who transforms us from within. Take the Light we have found and shine it to those in darkness. Allow those around you to see how drastically Christ has changed your life, and how He has fed you and satisfied your hunger. Show them to the Food and Drink!

May the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you.

The Father’s Embrace (A Guest Post)

ImageThis was a status my friend Robert Rubinow posted on facebook tonight that I wanted to offer up as a guest blog:

THE FATHER’S EMBRACE 

What I am about to say is not very popular, and will likely make a few people angry. But I think this needs to be confronted. As a therapist, I work with a number of children and teenagers contending with severe anxiety. This makes me very sad, as I realize that American culture and the state of the family in general tends to exert unhealthy pressure and stress on kids in ways that cause significant physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional suffering.

From the time kids are very young, they are expected to learn volumes of random information and facts which are disconnected from their historical and philosophical contexts; to be superstars on the soccer fields and basketball courts; to gain mastery over every technological gadget under the sun; to always get A’s in school so they can attend and graduate from the best colleges and universities; to seek out careers that will impress others and make them wealthy; to earn degrees and titles and trophies; to live in the best neighborhoods and to drive the finest cars.

Yet very little attention is devoted to teaching kids to be emotionally healthy; to receive more of God’s love and mercy; to value failure and mistakes as an integral part of life’s journey; to place compassion for others ahead of selfish ambition; to seek out professions that attend to the suffering of humanity; to rest and refresh their minds, bodies, and spirits at regular intervals; to listen to and cherish the wisdom and stories of their elders; to develop virtue in places of pain; to grow toward relational maturity; to gain wisdom over knowledge; to value authenticity over performance and image; to slow down, turn off the video games, and spend time in simplicity and moments of sacred silence; to listen for the voices of heaven and the angels; and to soak in the beauty and joy of life itself and God’s creation, not in possessions.

Yet until we as a people recognize which gods of the age which have stolen our hearts and souls, and unto which we offer in sacrifice our very own children, I fear we may lose the next five generations. We have much to change in our priorities, our perspectives, and our passions if we ever expect our kids to be healed.

So, all this to say, let each of us pray for our children fervently (knowing their mortal enemy will devour them if we don’t), give them more time and affection, hold them closer, bless them daily by name, accept who they are, and be lavish with our praise and approval of them. Let us love them in a way that releases them to soar spiritually on wings of eagles, high above the impoverished landscape of a culture decadent in self-absorption, entertainment, performance addiction, and faddish lifestyles. Let us lead kids away from their anxieties and fears and into the Father’s embrace…because His perfect love casts out fear.

A Request for Prayer

ImageI am under a lot of stress and anxiety for some reason this semester, and I’m in a big rut. I guess it’s the stress of interviewing for grad school coming up soon and not knowing what the future holds combined with graduation being around the corner and that fear, albeit irrational, of not making it. I usually do not allow anxiety to get to me, but this semester it’s been a rough start. I haven’t been full time for a year, so I guess that is throwing me off too.

I am behind in reading, and really dropped the ball on the rough draft for my research paper, in APA format, for Ab. Psych. I am behind in reading for a few classes too.

Please keep me in your prayers. I would appreciate all the prayers you could offer up for me, please, dear friends.

I will get back on track! I take school very seriously, but I am battling some serious burnout I do believe. I am ready to be done with undergrad, to have 3 weeks off after graduation, and to begin a new, exciting journey into grad work if accepted. I made it this far, so I know the Lord will carry me through, but I would appreciate your prayers.

Thank you, all.

Love Does Not Alter the Beloved, It Alters Itself (A Love Letter, or Perhaps More Accurately, A Love Blog)

“Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself.” -Soren Kierkegaard

On my right forearm, the lyrics to William Fitzsimmons’ song “Maybe Be Alright” are tattooed.  It says, “Love can last if you only let it grow…” I have tried to live my marriage in such a way that I do not hinder love, but let it grow, let it flourish.

I believe that way too often we do things that hinder love and hinder growth. I believe that Soren Kierkegaard is right on the money with his quote. I believe the number one thing we do that smothers love and growth in marriage is to try to alter the Beloved.

We do not stop to think about changing ourselves, but attempt to make the other person change in order to conform to our version of who they should be!

My wife and I were quick to rush into marriage and love.  We brought a lot of unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors into our marriage that caused us to spend the first year of our marriage in a 5 month therapy separation and several months of counseling.

My wife is a very beautiful soul! She’s an old soul; she likes ancient things. That would probably explain our love of Orthodoxy and conversion to it. She has a deep sense of reverence towards God, towards people.

I realized soon into my marriage that there had to be a death….the death of myself and my selfishness, my control issues.

Very early on in our marriage I was not letting love grow; I was smothering it. Very early on I tried to control my wife and to alter her, my Beloved.

By the grace of God, we made it through that hellish first year in tact and much stronger for it. Looking back in retrospect, I am grateful for having gone through it all.

My Beloved has taught me humility, grace, and mercy every day since I met her. I knew when I met her that I would be in for a journey of trials to learn how to be as gentle as she is.

She is truly the strongest person I know because it is only the strong who can afford to be gentle.

She is like a dove soaring through the sky. She is like a daisy in the soft green meadow.

She has graced my brokenness with the gentleness of Christ’s love. She has applied the balm of His grace and mercy to my wounds.

My Beloved is my treasure. She has shown me the light of Resurrection in my darkness. In my marriage, she has brought me to humility by her grace, her mercy.

My Beloved is my precious fountain, a fountain from which I alone have drank. Her waters wash over me and refresh me.

I am not a very smart guy; I mess up daily in my marriage, but my Beloved’s grace and mercy is there to forgive me. She does not let me get away with things, but will hold me accountable. She knows my wounds and my flaws like no other, but yet, I can remain fully naked, exposed, before her love…and I fear not.

I know that her love shines brightly into the dark recesses of my heart. She causes me to stop and see myself how she sees me, sometimes it is bad and sometimes good.

She causes me to be introspective and how to alter myself.

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day when a Saint was martyred for his faith, but yet ironically marriage is about a martyr. Marriage is the martyrdom of your ego, false self, and horribleness. Steven Robinson wrote in his piece on Valentine’s Day, “Someone recently said of marriage that it is the only martyrdom in which you get to pick the instrument of your death. Of course it is not so much a physical death, though your physicality is a part of your sacrifice, but it is also the laying down of your ego, your self will, your time, your passions, your selfish desires… all the things that are ultimately harder to give up for the long haul than your physical life in a split second.”

My Beloved has shown to me the beauty of new birth, of self-denial, and of true love.

I have learned from my Beloved not to seek to change her, but to seek to alter myself or better yet to let Christ alter me. Her grace and mercy and beauty humble me everyday. I am often not good to remind her of her beauty and goodness, but I never forget it. Today I celebrate my Beloved and her influence on my life. I ask for the prayers St. Adrian and St. Natalie, who are the saints of our home and marriage.

I want to say to my Beloved: I love you and I am eternally grateful for the impact you have had on my life. I recall praying for my wife way before I met her. I remember driving home to VA for breaks during my freshman and sophomore years and wondering what she was doing. I remember sitting in my car on those trips looking over at the empty seat and hoping that I would have someone beside me one day.

I knew that the person who would be beside me would be of great love and mercy, but I had no idea she would be so delightfully beautify and loving. I am excited for what the future will hold for us as God brings us into new stages of life. I am excited to see her become the mother of my kids. I will join them in praise of her and her beauty.

I am glad it is with my Beloved that I can look at myself and humble myself to learn and grow.

As Solomon said, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

I love you, Courtney Anderson, my yellowbird, my Beloved.

me and court