Monday, August 27, 2012

What is the faith that will bring us salvation?

What is the faith that will bring us salvation? Is it enough to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

St John Chrysostom writes
He that believes in the Son has everlasting life." Is it enough, then, to believe in the Son,' someone will say, 'in order to have everlasting life?' By no means! Listen to Christ declare this himself when he says, 'Not everyone who says to me, "Lord! Lord!" shall enter into the kingdom of heaven'; and the blasphemy against the Spirit is alone sufficient to cast him into hell. But why should I speak of a part of our teaching? For if a man believe rightly in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, but does not live rightly, his faith will avail him nothing toward salvation (Homilies on the Gospel of John 31:1[circa A.D. 391]).
Jesus himself tells us that mere belief is not sufficient. The Lord Himself said, 
“Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 7:21). The Lord continues “Many will say to Me in that day, `Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'  (Matt.7:22-23).
Faith is not simply a belief but also a life. You can test it by its fruits in your life... as the Lord said
 “You will know them by their fruits….every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:16-20).
John the evangelist teaches us
 “Now by this we know that we know Him” how? “If we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him ” (1 John 2:3-4). 
Faith is tested through a life of obedience to God's commandments, and he who does not have this obedience is not considered a believer of Truth, and can not claim to know God.

Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church writes in his beautiful book, Life of Faith,
The intellect may guide you to the beginning of the way but faith continues with you on the way to the end. Faith does not contradict the intellect, but leads it to a higher level the mind alone cannot reach.... The mind can bring you to know God and some of His qualities but of faith, “God has revealed… to us through His Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:10). God shows Himself to the believer to what they can bear to comprehend.
Faith is something that is always underdevelopment and constantly being tested.  We should never assume we have sufficient faith. It demands the perfect love of God and others. Its limits are discovered in our tendencies for sinfulness and our fears. The best work of the devil is to convince someone that they are saved but their declaration of faith.  This is only a starting point along the path to salvation.  Only God grants us the grace of salvation.

Reference: Life of Faith, Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Two-fold Significance of a Clock

The Two-fold Significance of a Clock

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Every device of which man boasts as an invention of his mind is revealed by Divine Providence and every invented device has its two-fold significance one physical, the other spiritual. Even the clock is a wonderful device but it was not invented merely to tell us the time of day and night but also to remind us of death. This is its spiritual significance. When the small hand completes its rounds of seconds and minutes then the large hand arrives at the ordered hour and the clock strikes. So will the clock of our life strike when the days, months and years of our life are numbered. That is why St. Tikhon of Zadonsk counsels every Christian to reflect:

1. How the time of our life continually passes;

2. How it is impossible to bring back time that is past;

3. How the past and future times are not in our control but only that time in which we are now living;

4. How the end of our life is unknown;

5. How we must be prepared for death every day, every hour and every minute;

6. How because of that we must always be in the state of continual repentance;

7. How we must be repentant in every hour and spiritually disposed as we would wish to be at the hour of our death.
Eschatology/Death Christian Living

July 2, 2010 8:24 AM
by John Sanidopoulos

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Do We Spoil Our Children?

This is a common concern among parents. We wonder, "Will our children grow up to become self sufficient, able to deal with the tribulations of life, provide for themselves in a fast changing world, and maintain their Orthodox faith?" Children need to be nurtured, but as they grow older they also need to have limits set for them, learn to participate in family routines and be obedient to their parents directions.  We as parents are faced with the dilemma of balancing their immediate needs for gratification and the larger life lessons that they need to learn.

Dr. Mark Bertin tells us that current research shows that children benefit from strategies that build self-control and emotional resilience. these strategies involve saying-no, setting limits and not trying to satisfy them with stuff.

This is congruent with sound Orthodox teachings.  To know God we must overcome our passions.  We need a high degree of self-control to become united with God so we are obedient to do His will, living out the virtues that lead us to eternal life in His kingdom.  This can be taught at an early age.

Saint John Chrysostom tells us,
 Children who are submissive and faithful to God in their obedience to His law will have found an abundant source of happiness, even in this temporal life.... The youth to whom you give a good upbringing will not only enjoy general respect, he will also become dearer to you yourselves! Your attachment to him will not be a mere natural attraction—it will be the fruit of his virtue. For this, during your old age, you will in turn receive from him the services of his filial love. He will be your support.... Therefore I beg you to take care for the good upbringing of your children. First of all think of the salvation of their souls. God has placed you as the heads and teachers over your families. It is your duty to watch, and to watch continually after the behavior of your wife and children
The Apostle Paul tells us, "You fathers... bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4).

It is most critical to make sure we raise our children in a way that they learn to respect their parents and love God. The main element for this is the loving environment of the family home. We as parents must be examples for our children. We must not only teach what Christ has shown us, but we must practice it. This love does not mean we accept bad behavior, but that we teach and practice the idea of repentance.  We must teach them to acknowledge their mistakes, and learn the power of forgiveness. Sometimes our punishments, especially when we respond out of anger, only cause a child to suppress their mistakes to avoid future punishment rather than seeking help and asking for forgiveness.  Repentance is the nature of a loving relationship.

Prayer is also an essential element in a Orthodox Christian life. This too we must practice and teach. We should have our children pray with us. A child who is brought up in a family atmosphere where daily prayer is practiced, will naturally be drawn to a pattern of daily prayer. Prayer should and can be just a normal part of our family life. It does not have to be a moment of upheaval to the family routine but instead the routine of daily family life itself. In addition to our daily prayer routine we also need to have a regular practice of participating in the worship services and partaking of the sacraments.  When our children prepare to take communion the parents should also be prepared to take communion with them. As a Deacon who administers Holy Communion, it always breaks my heart to see parents bring their children for communion and then turn away without receiving it themselves. This is not the right example to set. Worse yet are those who drop their children off for Sunday school and then come to church as it is ending. We must be ever conscious of what example we are setting. Only a sincere practice of faith will educate our children properly.

Obedience is another essential discipline our children must learn.  To live the life of Christ we must become obedient to His teaching out of our love for Him.  This begins with learning obedience to our parents. Children are very clever at finding tricks to get their own selfish way. These tricks do not lead them to true love and obedience that is necessary for a Christian life.  We need to expose them and teach them to respect and obey their parents who love them. Depending on age and maturity we move from "do as you are told" to a natural action that comes out of love for another person.

We can easily over do our attention to our children as well.  Elder Paisios gives us a thoughtful warning about the harm that comes from this.  He says,
Many parents bring their children spiritual harm by demonstrating their love for them in an inappropriate manner. For example, out of an excessive human love for her child, a mother may hug and kiss him, and say to him, “ O what a wonderful child you are,” or “You are the best little boy in the world, ”etc. As a result, from a very early age(while he is still unable to comprehend or object to the meaning of those words), the little one acquires a high opinion of himself, thinking of himself as the best of brightest. Naturally, for the same reason, he will not sense a need for God’s grace, and will not know to ask God for help. Thus from early childhood, the child will have a high opinion of himself that is rock-solid, one that he will never be able to overcome and will take with him to the grave. Moreover, the first to suffer from this haughtiness are the parents themselves. Really, will children quietly sit and listen to parental instructions when they are certain that they are the best, that they know everything? For this reason, parents should be very attentive to their children’s spiritual development; they bear responsibility not only for themselves, but for their children as well.
Orthodox parenting begins with a understanding that we are responsible for developing souls. Our task is to raise saints that God will embrace with great joy. To do this the parents also need to be like saints.

Elder Porphyrios says,
The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God.  They need to become saints in their relations to their children through their mildness, patience, and love.  They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children.  And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children.  Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behavior of the children.  And their behaviour is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness.  If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don’t engage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them.  If the parents do not live a holy life and do not display love towards each other, the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children.  Love, harmony and understanding between parents are what are required for the children.  This provides a great sense of security and certainty.”
Examine your family life and evaluate how well you are practicing the Orthodox Way of Life, keeping in mind you are nurturing not just your own soul but also your child's.

Reference: Wounded by Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, trans. by John Raffan (Limni, Evia, GRE: Denise Harvey, Publisher, 2005), 196.

Monday, August 6, 2012

On Jesus Prayer

By St. John Chrysostom

The remembrance of the name of Jesus rouses the enemy to battle. For a soul that forces itself to pray the Prayer of Jesus can find anything by this prayer, both good and evil. First it can see evil in the recesses of its own heart, and afterwards good. This prayer can stir the snake to action, and this prayer can lay it low. This prayer can expose the sin that is living in us, and this prayer can eradicate it. This prayer can stir up in the heart all the power of the enemy, and this prayer can conquer it and gradually root it out. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it descends into the depths of the heart, will subdue the snake which controls its ranges, and will save and quicken the soul. Continue constantly in the name of the Lord Jesus that the heart may swallow the Lord and the Lord the heart, and that these two may be one. However, this is not accomplished in a single day, nor in two days, but requires many years and much time. Much time and labor are needed in order to expel the enemy and instate Christ.

 Letter to Monks (PG 60, p. 753).

I  saw this on the Blog Milk and Honey and thought it was a good thought for this blog as well.