Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Repentance



TRUE REPENTANCE

As I’ve noted before, a word or phrase from the Daily Office sometimes reaches out and grabs me by the heart. Or rather, it can feel like the prayers of the Church grab me by the beard, as Joab grabbed Amasa, feigning familiar friendship but running me right through the gut (2 Sam. 20:8-10). And as a sharp, piercing sword that separates soul from spirit, the word true before repentance in the Office’s absolution caught me full stop one morning (1979 BCP, p. 42).
What would it mean for my repentance to be true, as opposed to some other kind with which I might be all too familiar? What does it demand of me?
True repentance demands my cooperation in the midst of God’s graceful work. The Office’s absolution begins and ends, and properly so, with God’s pure gift. “Absolution and remission of sin,” as I’ve written before, is something we cannot do or procure for ourselves. We come to God with filthy hands, greased with sin. Attempting to wash off “the sins that cling so closely” (Heb. 12:1) would produce much the same effect as when my youngest son, caked from head to toe in mud, tried to clean himself off with a hose. Each time he would clean one hand he’d use it to grab the hose and then it was soiled with the dirt from the other hand. In the end, he managed more of a spreading of mud than a real cleaning from it. He needed help.
Priests illustrate and live out this truth every time they celebrate the Sacrament, as an acolyte pours water over their hands in the ablution. I teach my acolytes that before I assume the place of Christ for the sake of the community in celebrating the Eucharist, they assume the place of Christ for me when they pour the blessed water of forgiveness over my fingers. It makes an impression.
In an even more explicit way, “the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit” prayed for in the absolution is not something we can acquire or earn. Grace and consolation go beyond even the notion of a divine gift: they are God himself, made present in us. Appearing appropriately at the conclusion of the absolution, the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and the concomitant indwelling of Christ himself is our goal. The Office guides us from the beginning of sanctification in God’s graceful action on our souls to sanctification’s end: moving from prison to freedom, from sorrow to joy, toward communion with the blessed Trinity.
But again, what of the middle part of the prayer of absolution: “true repentance and amendment of life”? This part demands our cooperation in what the Fathers called a synergeia with the Holy Spirit. We must be willing to see ourselves truly and with unflinching courage. This stage of repentance corresponds to the painful task of examining a wound: pressing on it, opening it, even inflaming it as one searches for foreign matter that could spark an infection later.
When I was young, my parents would use a needle and rubbing alcohol to dig out a splinter in my finger or foot. As one who seeks to leave childish things behind (cf. 1 Cor. 13:11), I must now have the courage to root out sinful thoughts and habits that will only fester if allowed to remain. God may reveal them for what they are, but I must confront and defeat them, exercising a will created in the image of God’s freedom.
True repentance means I must be merciless with myself — “judge yourselves, lest ye yourselves be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31) — to prevent a wound in the flesh or soul from poisoning my spiritual heart. What I watch, what I say, how I behave: all of it must be painfully examined by truth spoken in Jesus’ love. This is how one may construe the saying that one must “pluck out an eye” or “cut off a limb,” if it causes one to stumble (Matt. 5:29-30). True repentance is effected and demonstrated by amendment of life — real change in how one lives.
We must present even the best parts of ourselves for examination. Yes, Christ would have us amend even that which makes us “successful” in the world! We must examine what is precious to us, what is apparently our strength. Every part of us must be radically amended, pruned, amputated, if we are to be fruitful branches of the one true Vine (John 15:1-6).
True repentance takes such courage. I cannot say that I have it: we may witness it only in a few, such as the saints. But repentance requires us to acknowledge the depth of the painful interior martyrdom that cooperation with the Holy Spirit requires.
True repentance calls us to amend ourselves all the way down to where Christ dwells in us, all the way down to where the Holy Spirit groans in our agony with all the spiritual forces of wickedness. And if the truth should cause us to despair, if this sort of reckoning should seem to take us down even to depths of hell itself, if the amendment required proves beyond our power, the Church’s prayers do not leave us comfortless. The Holy Spirit himself will come there — especially there, always there — to console us and present us to Christ our Savior, that he may deliver us from where he has gone before. Even to the hour of our death and the end of the age, let it be so.
Fr. Rob Price is the rector of St. Dunstan’s, Houston.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Prayer for the acceptance of God’s will

O Lord, I do not know what to ask of You.
You alone know what are my true needs.
You love me more than I myself know how to love.
Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me.
I do not dare to ask either for a cross or for consolation.
I can only wait on You.
My heart is open to You.
Visit and help me, for the sake of Your great mercy.
Strike me and heal me; cast me down and raise me up.
I worship in silence Your holy will and Your unsearchable ways.
I offer myself as a sacrifice to You.
I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will.
Teach me to pray.
Pray You Yourself in me. Amen.
                                -Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow

From: HERE

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Surrounded with fullness of living Food, you allow yourself to starve




Advice from Mother Theresa to Malcolm Muggeridge who was struggling with the offences of the institutional church before he finally converted to Roman Catholicism.

"One reason for my hesitating so long before becoming a Catholic was my disappointment at some of the human elements I saw in the Catholic Church.  In spite of the following letter from Mother Theresa I still held back, and a number of years went by before I could make up my mind.

“I think, dear friend,” she wrote, “I understand you better now. I am afraid I could not answer to your deep suffering.  I don’t know why, but you are to me like Nicodemus (who came to Jesus under cover of night), and I’m sure the answer is the same: ‘Unless you become a little child…”
“I am sure you will understand beautifully everything – if you would only become a little child in God’s hands.  Your longing for God is so deep, and yet he keeps Himself away from you.  He must be forcing Himself to do so, because He loves you so much as to give Jesus to die for you and for me.  Christ is longing to be your Food.  Surrounded with fullness of living Food, you allow yourself to starve.
“The personal love Christ has for you is infinite – the small difficulty you have regarding the Church is finite. Overcome the finite with the infinite.  Christ has created you because He wanted you.  I know what you feel – terrible longing, with dark emptiness – and yet He is the one in love with you.  I do not know if you have seen these few lines before, but they fill and empty me:

My God, my God, what is a heart
That Thou should’st so eye and woo,
Pouring upon it all Thy heart
As if Thou had’st nothing else to do?"

From "Conversion: The Spiritual Journey of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim," by Malcolm Muggridge

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent: More than Dust



A meditation I wrote for our Diocesan Executive Meeting December 9, 2014

Comet 67P (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) was all the rage in the news recently.  The European Space Agency out-did themselves by rendezvousing the Rosetta Satellite with the comet and then executing a landing on it.   The lander had a more difficult surface to land upon than anticipated – it was thick with dust and the ice was more like concrete.  Looking at pictures from the space agency one could see that the comet was comprised of two balls of ice and dust, held together by a miniscule amount of gravity.  It was covered with dust, but yet they hoped to find the building blocks of life.  It reminded me of the fact that we are made of stardust.  As one astronomer wrote:
“The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way they could get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.”
Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing
We are but dust!  Nothing new here; nothing new there – just dust.  There might be things of interest in dust, but there is no meaning in dust, or colliding balls of dust, or complicated gatherings of dust.  It is just dust.  Interesting dust.
But God has spoken into the dust
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103.14
 “…the dust of death.”  Psalm 22.15
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?  Psalm 30.9
All the prosperous of the earth
Shall eat and worship;
All those who go down to the dust
Shall bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep himself alive.  Psalm 22.29
The Lord has breathed life into the dust, He has shone His light from above, as it were, and we are thus.  This is the story of our faith.  But it is more than a story, more than a mere philosophical meta-narrative of human thought and imagination, created to construct meaning out of the stardust.  It is the story of revelation, of the divine creation and restoration, to lift us from the ‘dust of death’ to the life of God.
Into the darkness of dust and dead stars the Lord breathed life, and thus meaning into existence. 
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
4              What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?  Psalm 8.3,4
The advent of Christ restored meaning, purpose, and hope, to help us to live as we are meant to live: truly human, in love and union with God, and in love and union with each other.
The Star over Bethlehem is for the whole world.  The Breath of Pentecost is for the whole world.  They call us out of the dust of death, darkness, and meaninglessness.  They call us to truth, goodness, and beauty.  They call us to peace with God and each other.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.  Isaiah 9.2

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77             To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78             Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79             To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”  Luke 1.76-79


"So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today?” says the philosopher and physicist.  No, never!  Let us forever proclaim the Gospel of Peace on earth, goodwill to all.  Let us forever remember Jesus, our light and life, indeed the light and life of the world.

O Morning Star, splendour of the light eternal and bright Sun
of righteousness: come and enlighten all who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death.
Lord Jesus, come soon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Get Up Again

A monk came to Abba Sisoes and said:
“What should I do, Abba, for I have fallen from grace?”
And he replied, Get up again.”
The monk came back shortly after and said:
“What shall I do now, for I have fallen again?”
And the old man said to him,
“Just get up again. Never cease getting back up again!”
-  Sayings of the Elders
We fall – into sin, fear, sorrow, despair…. We can all name the many places and ways in which we have fallen. Sometimes we fall through our own doing, other times through the actions or words of another, and still other times simply by the changes and chances of life. For most of us the real question is not whether we will fall but whether we will get up again. The spiritual journey is one of continually getting back up again.

From the Blog "Interrupting the Silence," found HERE

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Refashioned into that Ancient Beauty of Your Likeness

I recently discovered this beautiful canticle from the Funeral Service of the Greek Orthodox Church.  It contains so very many beautiful, poetic, and truth-filled phrases.

A chanting of the Memorial can be found on Youtube HERE

Memorial for the Dead
Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

The Choir of the Saints has found the Fountain of Life, and the Door of Paradise. May I also find the way through repentance: the sheep that was lost am I; call me up to You, O Savior,and save me.

Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

You Who of old did fashion me out of nothingness, and with Your Image divine did honor me; but because of transgression of Your commandments did return me again to the earth where I was taken; lead me back to 
be refashioned into that ancient beauty of Your Likeness.

Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

Image am I of Your unutterable glory, though I bear the scars of my stumblings. Have compassion on me, the work of Your hands, O Sovereign Lord, and cleanse me through Your loving-kindness; and the homeland of my heart's desire bestow on me by making me a citizen of Paradise.

Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

Give rest, O God, unto Your servant, and appoint for him (her) a place in Paradise; where the choirs of the Saints, O Lord, and the just will shine forth like stars; to Your servant that is sleeping now do You give rest, overlooking all his (her) offenses.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
The Trinal Radiance of One Godhead with reverent song acclaiming let us cry; Holy are You, O Eternal Father, and Son also Eternal, and Spirit Divine; shine with Your light on us who with faith adore You; and from the fire eternal rescue us.
Both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Hail, O Gracious Lady, that in the flesh bears God for salvation of all; and through whom the human race has found salvation: through You may we find Paradise, Theotokos, our Lady pure and blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia; Glory to You, O God.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of servant where there is not pain, nor any sorrow, nor any sighing, but Life everlasting.
Composed by St. John of Damascus

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Justice does not belong to the Christian way of life!


Sit amid lepers rather than amid the proud.
Be persecuted, but persecute not.
Be crucified, but crucify not.
Be wronged, but wrong not.
Be slandered, but slander not.
Have clemency, not zeal, with respect to evil.
Lay hold of goodness, not justice.
Justice does not belong to the Christian way of life, and there is no mention of it in Christ’s teaching. Rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep; for this is the sign of limpid purity. Suffer with the sick, and mourn with sinners; with those who repent, rejoice.

~From Homily 51 of St. Isaac the Syrian
This a puzzling quote.  "Lay hold of goodness, not justice. Justice does not belong to the Christian way of life, and there is no mention of it in Christ’s teaching."  I am familiar with "mercy triumphs over judgment."How does this square up with all the justice talk that has saturated the Church.  Perhaps we are entirely misguided in using justice talk.   I know this, that if I have to face the justice of the Judge, I am lost.  I can only plead "Mercy."  What if we were to have "Goodness Camps" instead of Justice Camps.  What would that look like?  Or a 'Mercy Camp?'

O Lord, send Thy grace to my help, that I may glorify Thy holy name… O Lord my God, even though I have done nothing good in Thy sight, yet grant me by Thy grace to make a good beginning. O Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Thy grace. O Lord of Heaven and Earth, remember me Thy sinful servant, shameful and unclean, in Thy Kingdom. Amen

St. John Chrysostom, from evening prayers
Both quotes are from the blog Nothing but Orthodoxy

Lord have Mercy,  Brian+

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Don’t give offense. Don’t take offense. Forgive everybody everything right away.



Don’t give offense.
Don’t take offense.
Forgive everybody everything right away.
I recently came across this statement while exploring a spiritual blog on the internet.  The blogger was unaware of the author of the quote, so it must have been the famous author of many a quote, Mr. Anonymous. It struck me as a profoundly simple but accurate description of the Christian life.  Despite its succinct simplicity it is frustratingly difficult to live out.  It would require exacting humility and earnest attentiveness to live this very spiritual axiom.  But why bother?

The easiest answer to that question is that it is how Jesus lived.  At first glance that might be difficult to swallow.  Did not Jesus give offense?   Were not many of those who heard the words of the itinerant Galilean prophet offended?  Did not they plot His death because of His proclamations.  Indeed they did take offense!  But this was not because Jesus intentions were to offend others.  Rather they took offense because the words He spoke were a direct challenge to their self-conceived or culturally-shaped sensibilities.   It is difficult to say that Jesus went about to be deliberately in-your-face provocative.  Simply being who He was was enough to offend, enough so to result in the Cross.  As St. Anthony of old said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, "You are mad, you are not like us." 

The second and third lines of the quote strongly resonate with our perceptions of Jesus: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.32)  These words are powerful reminders of the way of Jesus, and it points to His witness of what true humanity is like.  It is the clarion call of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that as Christ has overcome our sin and death, that He also invites, even commands us to enter into His life which is to say both His being, and His way of being.  (This is to embrace the mystery of who I am, and the wonder of living it out: being who I am.)  When we stand on the solid rock of personal identity, which is revealed in the person of Jesus, then we are able to ignore remarks or actions that might otherwise be offensive personal attacks.  To take no offense is possible when we are intensely ‘other’ focused, knowing that the other person who has said something that in our brokenness would be offensive, is a person who has not embraced their own personhood..  Thus we readily willing and able to forgive them.

So it is then: “Don’t give offense. Don’t take offense. Forgive everybody everything right away.”  These truth-ladened words, succinctly state a Christian mantra of how we should attempt to live out our life in Christ.  So write it down somewhere, memorize it, take it up, and before long you shall realize that you will desperately need the Holy Spirit to live it.  But with eyes firmly focused upon Jesus, with daily prayer, reflection, and repentance, we shall find in it the joy of the abundant life, renewed hope in the fullness of the life to come, and best of all we shall find Christ’s love deepening in our hearts, and Christ’s love flowing from our hearts to all others.

LORD have mercy,  Brian+