Friday, May 31, 2019

Have you chosen a God pleasing life for your salvation?

If so, your conscience will immediacy demand that your whole being abide by all of God's commandments, whether large or small. If not, you will not feel this obligation or desire and pick only those commandments that you agree with or find easy to live by. The challenge is have His commandments in your heart and not be some outward set of standards.
In my heart have I hid Thy sayings that I might not sin against thee.Psalm 118:11
Psalmist David is saying that the commandments are not some kind of exterior force compelling him, but that this force is inside him. He had taken them to his heart and loves them. Therefore he can only think of actions according to his heart and do them.

Saint Theophan says,
When commandments are in the heart, they are fulfilled with diligence, and in the most beautiful and attractive way.
The reality is for most of us we have not yet made this full commitment to live a God pleasing life. 

Saint Theophan says further,
The commandments say: be humble, meek; love truth; be pure, peaceful, patient, etc; yet the heart is sometimes proud and vain, at other times angry and hateful; at other occasions it becomes passionate and filled with desires; at other times it squabbles and grumbles, and so on.... 
As long as this is our condition we cannot say the commandments are hidden in our heart and it indicates that we have not committed to a God pleasing life.

What should we do in this case? Saint Theophan offers the following advice:
At first one should act in spite of the heart, only at the insistence of the conscience, through the strength of a reasonable will supported by God’s Grace, bending oneself, so to speak, to the task of the commandments, as a heated rod is bent into the shape that is needed... The more efforts and experience gained in fulfilling the commitments, the more they enter into the heart, until they all find themselves a dwelling place there.
Saint Theophan says we need God’s grace, but with only our efforts and good deeds, grace will not help us change the nature of our heart. He says it will leave it as it is “with all its passionate tastes and attractions, even though a person may have been baptized and partakes of other Sacraments.
The law of spiritual life dictates that what a person does not struggle for will not be given by God's grace, although with his own efforts alone he will not succeed in anything.
Like it says in the Psalm, it is only when the commandments are hidden in the heart, filling its contents, that the heart and conscience will work together so one can live a God pleasing life.

Reference: Psalm 118: A commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, pp 36-39

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life

Monday, May 27, 2019

Does God Get Angry?

“He will not be angry unto the end, neither will He be wrathful forever” (Psalm 103:9)

What would it mean if God never got angry with us? What does it imply if we never get angry with our children? Doesn’t this mean that there is no love? Don’t we feel a bit angry at time when those we love disappoint us in their behavior? Shouldn’t we be angry at evil? Surly there are time when  it’s necessary to rebuke or correct those we love.

Elder Aimilianos says in his commentary on this passage,
A God who never got angry would be a God without love; He would be like an unfeeling father who merely tolerates or ignores his children long enough until they’re grown up and gone.
But, we must remember that God is also merciful if we make and effort to correct our errant ways. He wants us to be perfected in His image and likeness. 

The Elder comments,
But even When God grows angry, He will not be angry unto the end. He will not make sinful man drink the cup of His wrath to the dregs. Instead He will deal with us with great delicacy and sensitivity. As soon as He sees even the smallest little improvement in the soul; the slightest turn in the direction of the light, His anger will immediately dissipate. God’s punishment is never commensurate with the crime; it is not measured out by the standards of an impersonal law, or by demands of abstract justice; it extends only so far as is needed for correction.
We must remember that whatever God let’s happen to us is for our good. 
He has not required us according to our transgressions, neither has He dealt with us according to our sins. (Psalm 103:10)
Elder Aimilianos writes,
Whatever God has done to us, or permitted to happen to us, was not according to the measure of out transgressions, but according to the measure of His love, and this is something that should fill us with joy.

Ref:  Psalms and the Life of Faith, by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, pp282-283.

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life

Monday, May 20, 2019

What is it we should Seek?

 “He fulfills your desire with good things; your youth will be renewed as the eagles” (Psalm 103)

Elder Aimilianos comment on this passage writes, “notice It doesn’t say “He fulfills your desires”  but says “your desire.”

So what is the significance of this being a singular desire. Our desires are the result of our passions, the many distractions we face in this worldly life. But what we seek is is His kingdom not our desires of our pleasure seeking life through earthly things. 

Scripture says, 
Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Lk 12:31)
So our desire, singular, should only be our desire for God.

Elder Aimilianos says, 
He transforms you into a person of a single-minded desire, a person whose only desire is for God. And it is because you desire God and seek Him that He offers you all the good things of this life and the life to come.
What we should seek is only God, then we will be blessed with a good life. We must not think that God will satisfy our desires, but that we will be rewarded when we have a singular desire for a union with God. He must the the primary focus of our love. When we feel separated from Him we must seek His companionship. Otherwise we may be misled by the many desires that arise from the numerous temptations of the worldly life.

Ref: Psalms and the Life of Faith, by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, p 274

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life

Friday, May 17, 2019

“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, long suffering and rich in mercy.” (Psalm 103)
Commentary by Elder Aimilianos 
“God’s <<compassion>> is exercised on behalf of human beings who are made of earth and are forever in danger of lapsing into non-existence.”
“God is also <<merciful>> to us because we forget that we are created from the earth; we forget that we are created from earth; we forget that we are nothing, and act as if we were god’s, or make a god out of our ego and our selfish desires. To such a creature, one can only be patient and show mercy.”
God is <<long-suffering>>, He exercises patience with us, because we are ignorant and rebellious; because we stubbornly resist Him. We are not interested in God because our attention is occupied with the fantasy life of our ego, our self-will, and our foolish plans.”
God is <<rich in mercy>>, because human sinfulness is as deep and as wide as the ocean. Mercy is God’s response to actual transgression, to sinful actions, and not simply to things within the soul.”

Ref: Psalms and the Life of Faith, by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, pp 280-281

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Freedom From Suffering

The moment we accept death, true life can begin.  (Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra) 
In his commentary on Psalm 88, Elder Aimilianos is addressing suffering and all our tribulations of earthly life. His message is that there is only one way to be freed of this struggle: not by rejecting these sufferings or difficulties but in joyfully accepting them.

Elder Aimilianos writes,
The secret to his freedom does not lie in the rejection of his suffering, but in his joyful acceptance of them. He will be truly free only when he lets go of wanting to be free of his sufferings, for all freedom and all life depend on our being in right relation to God. When he accepts his death; when he allows himself to hear the sound of his footsteps descending into the grave, he will find that death no longer has a hold on him, for now he is with God. The darkness will vanish and he will see only light.
This freedom from or fear of suffering and death requires that we make a choice to voluntarily sacrifice ourselves to God, just like Christ voluntarily sacrificed Himself on the Cross. 

The Elder says, 
“if he accepts to become an instrument of God’s will, he will emerge triumphant; but otherwise he will fail.”
When we are focused on our difficulties and suffering we become very self centered and find ourselves distant from God. We become our own god and there is no room for another.

The Elder says,
“If “l” exist God cannot exist, for there cannot be two gods, and so it is either God or the self. When someone sees only his own suffering, God cannot answer him, for it is precisely the mistaken, negative attitude toward suffering that constitutes the separation between him and God. But if “I” cease to exist, if my relation to my suffering changes, then I can be united to God. This union depends on the denial of my self, so that God can come into my life.”
This freedom comes only through a transformation that is the result of our growing love of God and our willingness to confront the many self-centered passions one is burdened with. In accepting or rejecting our suffering, we are accepting or rejecting God Himself.

He says,
“I must learn to accept suffering with joy, to find joy within my suffering, to realize that even in my moments of glory, I am nothing but “dust and ashes” (Gen 18:27), a pelican in the wilderness (Ps 102:6), lost in a desert land, seeking shelter in a landscape of ruins. I must realize my sinfulness, my nakedness, my alienation from God; I must realize I am like a sparrow alone o a house top (Ps 102:7), not because I have some psychological problem, but because I have been separated from God.”
We need to accept our condition, and desire to be freed from fear of death and suffering and commit ourselves to the spiritual struggle found in the Orthodox way of life. We need to seek for the Holy Spirit to lift us up, to purify our heart, and lead us to union with God.

The Elder concludes his commentary,
“In this cry, this calling out, there exists the hope that I will hear the sound of His footsteps, and these will overtake my own and lead me to salvation.”

Ref: Psalms and the Life of Faith, by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, pp 104-109

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Passions are the root of sinfulness

Saint Maximos the Confessor says, “When the passions dominate the mind, they bind it to material things...” This separates us from God and divine grace. This is why our church fathers and elders like Aimilianos tell us to know ourselves in a deep way to uncover our passions. We often find our passions buried in our habits and our reactions to worldly events or encounters with others. We can often find them by digging into what upsets or hurts us. Also, there are often patterns of behavior that point us to our passions.

Elder Aimilianos warns us that we have to be very careful and observant of our behavior and attachment to material things, because we fail to recognize the harm we are doing to our soul. 

He says,
The passions bind the mind to material things that we think are harmless, since we tell ourselves, God gave them to us and in them selves they are not sinful.
He uses food as a simple example. God did give us the passion of hunger so we can maintain a healthy life. But when our desire for food or drinks goes beyond what is necessary for good health we become consumed by it and lose our focus on God. We eat unhealthily, we obsess over certain foods and drinks, or desire things that are very expensive, creating other issues. Food can easily become a source of conflict between married couples driving them to separate meals, denying them of need social interaction to share and express their loving care for each other.

The path to a passionless life is our love of God. Saint Maximos says, “When the love of God prevails, it frees our mind from bonds...” When we love God with passion we think about the life to come and how we must prepare for this future life. In this way we can see all material things in the right light. They can not be bad in themselves but it depends on how we view them. We need to discern God’s purpose in all things.

Elder Aimilianos says,
Real maturity is when you understand that the problem you are struggling with is the sign of a worldly spirit, an indication that you do not love God.The true meaning of life is spiritual... Preoccupation with material things, worldly interests, and the cares of life, are like weights that oppress and drag us down.Too often we go to our spiritual father, even when we go to confess our sins, not because we care about God, but because we care only about things of this world; because we are looking for solutions to the problems of this life.

Mystical Marriage by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, pp 27-32

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life