The Spirit of True Wealth

SPIRITUALITY

“The sannyasi had reached the

outskirts of the village and settled

down under a tree for the night

when a villager came running up

to him and said, ‘The stone! The

stone! Give me the precious stone!’

 

‘What stone?’ asked the sannyasi.

 

‘Last night the Lord Shiva appeared

to me in a dream,’ said the villager,

‘and told me that if I went to the

outskirts of the village at dusk

I should find a sannyasi who would

give me a precious stone that would

make me rich forever.’

 

The sannyasi rummaged in his bag and

pulled out a stone. ‘He probably

meant this one,’ he said, as he handed

the stone over to the villager. ‘I found

it on a forest path some days ago. You

can certainly have it.’

 

The man gazed at the stone in wonder.

It was a diamond, probably the largest

diamond in the whole world, for it was

as large as a person’s head.

 

He took the diamond and walked away.

All night he tossed about in bed,

unable to sleep. Next day at the

crack of dawn he woke the sannyasi

and said, ‘Give me the wealth that

makes it possible for you to give

this diamond away so easily.’ ”

 (Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, pp 140-141)

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Traveling with Cancer

As I compose this post, I’m in the hospital recovering from the lung resection surgery.   The malignant tumor and the lower right lobe of my lung were successfully removed.  Recovery from this surgery is, as I was amply warned before surgery, painful.  Pain meds help with the coping and managing of my  health care issues.  They also challenge my writing and typing skills.

While the May 19th operation, the lobectomy, was successful, the surgery also discovered that the cancer has already spread to my lymph nodes.  All 8 lymph nodes sent to pathology turned out to be cancerous.  The removal of the cancerous lobe has not gotten the cancer out of my body.  The cancer had progressed faster than was apparent from the various techno-scans done prior to surgery.  So the fight with cancer moves to a new level, one the cancer has chosen.

I went into surgery thinking I had Stage 1 cancer, but came out of surgery knowing that I already have Stage 3 lung cancer.  I will soon be going to an oncologist to discuss further treatment.  The prayers of so many friends and strangers helped me get through the surgery and have put me on the road to recovery from that surgery.

Despite the surgery successfully removing the malignant tumor, the larger goal of getting the cancer out of the body was not achieved.  Somehow the medical technology was not able to fully diagnose the extent of the problem.

None of this changes the basic fact: We all are always in God’s hands.  Sometimes he takes us places we don’t wish to go (John 21:18).  However, God always loves us and beckons us to join Him at the wedding feast of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Over the next months I will write from time to time about this sojourn and the new traveling companion who will be with me every step of the journey.  Life is a road with unexpected twists and unanticipated turns which do not allow you to see what is ahead.  We are to traverse on it anyway.  And for Christians, we are to do it with joy.

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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The First Ecumenical Council

“Today, we are more likely to think of Christ only in divine terms: we know that he is God; what we have difficulty with is explaining how he is human as we are. Again, God and human beings are held apart; communion and fellowship have not been restored. But our confession, following the Fathers of Nicaea, is that through what he has done as a human being, we see the transcendent power of God at work. Most importantly, as we have been singing for many weeks now, it is by his death – an all-too-human act – that he destroys death, for he died willingly as a spotless self-offering for our sakes. It is not that because he is God he conquered death automatically, but that in the way he died a human death he shows himself to be God. He does this by freely giving himself to death, so showing that he is stronger than death, that death could not hold him, with the result that the tomb is empty; and so, by his elevation on the Cross, he has ascended into heaven, from where we await the descent of the Holy Spirit and the coming again of our Lord.”  (John Behr, The Cross Stands While the World Turns: Homilies for the Cycles of the Year, pp 94-95)

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Unity: God in Us

In John 17:1-13, Jesus prays for us, His disciples that we may all be one  –  Christ prayed that we His followers would have a unity of love as exists between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You . . . And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You gave me, that they may be one, even as we are one. . . . But now I am coming to You; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

St. Silouan the Athonite (d. 1938) poetically comments:

“The Lord said, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and ‘You are in me, and I in you.’ Our soul feels the Lord in us, and we cannot forget Him for a single moment. What mercy is this – that the Lord desires us to be in Him and in the Father!

But what have we done for You, Lord,

in what have we pleased You,

that You do wish to be in us, and for us to be in You?

We crucified You on the Cross with our sins,

yet do You still wish us to be with You?

O, how great is Your mercy! I see Your mercy spread over me.

I am deserving of hell and every torment,

yet do You give me the grace of the Holy Spirit.

And if you did vouchsafe to my sinful self

to know You by the Holy Spirit, then I beseech You,

O Lord, let all people come to know You.”

(St. Silouan the Athonite, p 332)

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Sin and Blame

“It is God, who is merciful and grants everyone what he needs, who is building him up when he gives him more than he needs; in doing so he shows the abundance of his love for men and teaches him to give thanks. When he does not grant him what he needs, he makes him compensate for the thing he needs through the working of his mind and teaches him patience. Because it is our duty to attend to the supernatural aspect of all things, whether we suffer good or evil from anyone, we ought to look at (all things) supernaturally and give thanks for everything that happens to us, always taking the blame ourselves and saying, as the Fathers used to say, ‘If anything good happens to us it is God’s providence; if any bad, it is because of our sins.’ And truly everything we suffer is caused by our sins.

For the holy men of old, whatever they suffered, they suffered for God’s name, either to demonstrate their virtue and so to help everyone else, or to win greater reward from God. But we miserable fellows, how can we say this? Every one of us goes on sinning and suffering what we deserve. We have left the straight road of blaming ourselves and taken the crooked road of blaming our neighbor. Every one of us is very careful, on every occasion, to throw the blame on his brother and to strike him down with its weight. Every one of us is negligent and keeps none of the Commandments, and we demand in return that our neighbor keep them all.” (Dorotheos of Gaza – 6th Century, Discourses and Sayings: Desert Humor and Humility, p 144)

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Christ’s Ascension into Heaven

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11)

The Ascension of our Lord Jesus into heaven is an event with both a spiritual and physical dimension to it.  It appears that rather than seeing the heavens parted, Jesus disappears into a cloud.  A cloud frequently represents the presence of God in Old Testament events.  Theologian  Vigen Guroian comments:

“The Liturgy invites us to read the Bible typologically, which leads us to see that the cloud on which Jesus descends at the Parousia is the same as the pillar of cloud in Exodus. This cloud is the symbol of God’s glory, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, which makes the face of Moses shine on his descent from Sinai and causes Christ’s garments to glisten on Mount Tabor. The fire that melts the earth in its elements is the same that lights the burning bush and issues from Elijah’s heaven-bound chariot. It is also present in the flaming tongues that come to rest on the disciples at Pentecost.   To believe that the “cloud” is material and the “fire” is heat is as much a mistake as imagining that “the day of the Lord” is just an ordinary day in the course of linear time and human history.”  (The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key, Kindle Loc. 404-9)

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The Ascension (2015)

“Imagine a monk faced with the possibility of choosing: monastery or world. Let us suppose that his character and his notion of monasticism are such that he wants the monastery. Isn’t that too much to want? It would be normal for the whole world to want to be in a monastery, but the whole world does not have access to an external monastery! A gravely ill person wants a sanatorium, mountain air, fortifying nourishment, medical help – but not every sick person has access to it. Many must of necessity content themselves with a dark little basement, poor food, bad air. The same thing happens in the spiritual world. A monastery is like a spiritual sanatorium: we do not all have an incontestable right to it.

There is more love, more humility, more need in remaining in the world’s backyard, in breathing its bad air, in hungering after spiritual food – sharing all these burdens and all the world’s anguish with others, lightening them for others. Christ, in ascending to heaven, did not take the Church with Him; He did not halt the path of human history. Christ left the Church in the world. It was left as a small bit of leavening, but this leavening is to leaven the whole lump (Gal. 5:9). In other words, within the limits of history, Christ gave the whole world to the Church, and she has no right to renounce its spiritual edification and transfiguration. And for that she need a strong army. That army is monasticism.” (Mother Maria Skobtsova, Essential Writings, p 95)

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