Sunday, December 31, 2017

Faith and the "Light"

Through the grace of God we are blessed with the Incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ. Now we are able to have the fulness of the faith through Him. In our Baptism and Chrismation we are united with Him and become joined with His Body, the Church. This faith needs to be continually developed and nurtured through the sacramental life in the church and our own efforts guided by Grace seeking always Grace and our union with Him.

This faith is dynamic and ever growing. It is a continual process. As it increases we receive more Grace and powers. But we cannot just sit back in our own glory or comfort of our faith but we must also show it through our actions. These actions exemplify Christ Himself as we act according to His will, submitting our own will to His. This demands a complete cooperation, synergy, of our will with His.

As our faith matures and we are able though His grace to act like Him, experiencing our union with Him, there will be a loving presence that we acquire. This is the light that Jesus is talking about when He says, 
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
We do not seek to gain attention through our enlightened works but glorify the Father who is in heaven. Nurture your faith and let your light shine.

Ten Points of an Orthodox Way of Life

Monday, December 18, 2017

Seeking His Mercy

"Have mercy on us.”

This is most common prayer in the Orthodox Church. Most of us have come to know it as the Jesus Prayer, ”Lord have mercy on me a sinner.” In Orthodox teaching God is not looking to punish us for our sins but He wants to help us overcome our sinful tendencies. He sent His Son because of His love for Mankind so we could be healed and learn to love God as He loves us. This love is best expressed in this prayer, He is all merciful. He will forgive us our sinfulness as He knows our condition and wants us to be perfected so that we can have eternal life in His kingdom forever. This is His plan for all of us.

Many people in the Church will practice this prayer daily by repeating it over and over in quiet in the morning and evening. It is a powerful discipline when we engage in it prayerfully and with love of our merciful God. We are not always aware of how sinful we are but any action that is not taken to glorify God is an error and misses the mark for what we are intended. If we engage in this regular practice of saying the Jesus prayer daily over and over we will eventually have it in our mind all the time and will be repeating it continually. 

How does  this help us you ask? How can we sin when we continually have God in our mind and are seeking His mercy. It is only through His mercy that we can be healed of this infirmary of sinfulness. We should not despair in our condition but recognize it and seek His love and Grace so we can continually grow to become closer to His image. 

More on the Jesus Prayer

Monday, December 11, 2017

What are the Major Steps of the Spiritual Life?

Fr Staniloae gives us a clear view to answer this question  He says there are two phases. The first is the practical phase and the second is the contemplative phase.

The practical phase involves taking actions that help a believer overcome their attachment to passions and progressively learning to practice the virtues leading to love. The purpose of this phase is to become liberated from the passions. The mind must be cleansed and become dispassionate so it can go onto the last phase of contemplation undisturbed by passions. 
He says, 
"Only a clean shinny mirror, unspotted by passionate attachment to things of the world, is capable of receiving divine knowledge."
The contemplative phase is an exclusive focus on God. It is a "reintegration, unity and simplicity." The mind becomes empty, cleansed of passions, quiet with peace and tranquility, now able to receive and accept divine knowledge.

There is a final stage which he calls the theological or mystical contemplation of God.

In the beginning our aim is purification. We must first strive to become able to live the virtues as tough by Jesus Christ. It is the virtues that combat the passions. So it is like a two dimension struggle. Pursue a virtue and eliminate a passion.

When we move towards contemplation we begin to see the reality of the universe. Our object is the "logo" of created things. This is the true meaning of them in eyes of God. One begins to see everything from a spiritual perspective.

Once the inner nature of things is known, then one enters into the understanding of mystical knowledge of God Himself. He says this is "an ecstasy of love, which persists unmoved in a concentration on God."

These steps are similar to the idea of purification, illumination and perfection which was used by Dionysius the Areopagite.

Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 69-73

Monday, December 4, 2017

Build Faith and Overcome Anxiety

We all know that faith is the foundation we need to be united with God. It's important to examine our faith and become clear about how true it is. As the Scripture asks, “Are you anxious about your life?” As you reflect on all your worries remember God knows all your needs. Worry will bring you no relief but remembering God, giving thanks, and seeking comfort and His grace, there is nothing that can cause us to worry.

We develop our faith by participating in the sacramental life of the church, especially regular participation in Holy Communion and Holy Confession. Also, we need a daily prayer life, in fact a life of prayer. The church fathers teach us the Jesus Prayer, which after repeating it over and over with our love of God and sincere desire to be united with Him, becomes a way to connect with God instantly in our most difficult moment.
Of course, if we have a heart clouded by bodily passions and self-centered desires, we cannot see God. Therefore, we seek His grace, the Holy Spirit, to help us. To strengthen our own will so we can cooperate with His will we must fast as is shown on our Church Calendar, especially on Wednesday and Friday. Fasting is an important means to gain greater self-control and humility.

As we gain spiritual strength, our faith becomes strong. Then God allows His grace to flow through us and we become more able to do His will, not out of sense of obligation, but because we love God so much and have an unquenchable desire to be united with Him.

John Cassin writes,
Unless the grace of God comes to the help of our frailty, to protect and defend it, no man can withstand the insidious onslaughts of the enemy nor can he damp down or hold in check the fevers which burn in our flesh with nature's fire.

Conferences, Conference Two: On Discernment, Paulist Press pg. 74, 5th century
Ten Points for Orthodox Way of Life