From St. Marcarius the Great:
The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet there also are dragons and there are lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. And there are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices. But there is also God, also the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the Apostles, the treasures of grace – there are all things.
And one more quote for you, from the top of this blog:
"If you would enter into the mystery, then, like Christ Himself, you must become small, weak, poor, misunderstood, and willing to be broken. You cannot know Him if you refuse to be like Him. This is the only path that is truly Christian. Outside the mystery, there is nothing to be known, nothing that will save." Fr. Stephen Freeman.
Everyone is familiar with the question, “Are you saved?” For me, an Orthodox Christian, I guess I would reply something like, “Yes, I am, but I am also being saved, God is not done with me,” or something like that. But truly, what I would like to say is, I think this is the wrong question to ask.
We must be disciples of Jesus. We must do our best, as our life unfolds, to become more and more like Him. As we do that, this will do more to spread the Gospel than our verbal interactions with people. There is an authenticity in actions that just doesn’t happen all the time if we stick to the “faith alone” idea.
The Psalms and the prophets, even our Lord, speak phrases like, “What right have you to recite my statutes, to take my covenant on you lips, when you detest my teaching, and thrust my words behind you,” Psalm 49 (50):16-17.
Many voices in our culture speak to us like the Sirens that confronted Odysseus and the Greek sailors returning to Ithaca after the Trojan War. These voices are telling us that sin is not that bad. Everyone is doing this or that. The evil advocated by culture is claimed to be good. Being a disciple of Christ, and acting on His grace, and not to merely give lip service, helps us to discern the lies from the truth.
In fighting the spiritual battle, remember, this battle takes place primarily in the heart. We don’t have to run around and tell everyone they are going to hell. We must fight this battle inside first. As situations arise, we can use our humble stance before God as the sinners we are, and find a way to love others. This love will eventually open doors to God, to eternity. God is patient. We must be too. God is not finished with me. He is not finished with others.
A place to go to learn how to be, to learn what God’s will is for us, is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7. I’ll have more articles about this sermon soon.) Read it right now with fresh eyes, like you have never read it before. Listen to the words of Jesus. He is telling us what to do. He is telling us what God’s will is in our lives. But these words are hard. I mean, He tells us things like, “Offer no resistance to the Evil One,” Matthew 5:39.
I know that there are some very “spiritual” understandings about this foundational sermon by Jesus (basically to explain it away). One of my friends tells me that we don’t have to listen to Jesus here because He was speaking to the Jews. Others say that this is the impossible ideal that He knows we can’t even come close to following and that’s why the Bible teaches that we are saved by faith alone. So, we don’t have to do any of these things because they do not contribute to salvation in any way. That was done on the cross.
Well, I beg to differ. Take this one phrase about giving no resistance to evil. On one hand we can say that it doesn’t apply or that it is impossible or even that it is wrong. Of course, we must resist evil!! God would not want us to give in to evil, right? So, what does He want us to do?
First, how do we typically confront someone when we are threatened? We use violence, don’t we? It might be a punch in the nose, a baseball bat, or a gun. These are common forms of physical violence that we use to offer resistance. Or, it might be verbal. We use threats, name calling, or other violent words that inform the other person of what we will do if they do not stop.
I think what Jesus is telling us is to resist but by non-violent ways. Let’s read on past verse 39 in this section of the sermon.
“On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if someone wishes to go to law with you to get your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone requires you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks you, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn him away.”
On this last point, St. Luke’s gospel has even stronger language, “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to get money back, what credit can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High, for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked,” 6:34-35.
Do you see how “every day and practical” this is? Lend your money, but don’t even ask for it back, is one way to fight evil, or evil in your heart. You will be fighting greed big time if you can do this.
Not so many years ago, I was in big trouble financially. A friend of mine gave me loans three separate times. He never asked for money back. Eventually, I was able to pay him back when I got back on my feet. But it was years! From the first loan to the final payment, it was a total of about $6,000 and 10 years. He never kept track! He always had to ask me, “Oh, did I give you a loan? Oh! How much do you owe me?” This is a true story. And because of my good, Catholic friend and the Sermon on the Mount, I am doing the same with people who come to me. And let me tell you, this teaching of Christ is absolutely, fundamentally life giving and will set you free from greed and the disease of grasping for and wanting more. Please try to emulate this as much as you can in life. Jesus’ words and teachings will set you free from a whole host of things. Don’t think it is because we mentally agree with them. We have to actually do them! We have to risk it! There is no risk by saying, “Oh! I believe Jesus is right! I’ll like Him on Facebook.” No. That is not the Gospel. You have to do it. You have to risk it. You have to suffer for it. Especially when the other person DOESN’T pay you back!
I’ll end with a two more quotes.
“How can you find out if you are living within the will of God? Here is the sign: If you are troubled about any thing, this means that you have not completely given yourself over to the will of God. A person who lives in the will of God is not concerned over anything. And if he needs anything, he gives both it and himself over to God. And if he does not receive the necessary thing, he remains calm nevertheless, as if he had it. The soul which has been given over to the will of God is afraid of nothing, not of thunder nor of thieves - nothing. But whatever happens, she says, "Thus it pleases God." If she is sick, she thinks: this means that I need to be sick, or else God would not have given it to me. Thus peace is preserved in both soul and body.”
St. Silouan the Athonite
If you think that you love God, and there is ill disposition in your heart albeit towards one person, then you are in sorrowful self-delusion.
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
Peace my friends.
God bless you and keep you in all things
Dionysius the Little