Take Heart, Be Not Afraid

And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” (Mark 6;49-50)

St John Cassian (d. 435AD) tells us that the fear of God is a gift given to us so that we may properly cling to our Lord.  For Cassian, like for many of the saints, the proper fear of God doesn’t drive us away from God or make us cringe in terror, rather it makes us want to be in His presence.   St John bases this on what he reads in the prophets – God will replace our hard and stone-like heart with one of flesh so that we can truly feel what it means to be in God’s presence.  God puts a new heart in us so that we can have a godly fear of Him and so that God will have an appropriate “heaven” in which to dwell.  Godly fear is not human terror as one might have when thrown before a murderous tyrant, but the fear which emerges from total love and respect for one’s Savior.  The fear is that we might be parted from Him, or might do that which offends our loving and merciful Lord.  Cassian writes:

The prophet Jeremiah, speaking in the place of God, tells us that from above there comes the very fear of God by which we may cling to Him.  ‘I shall give them one heart and one way so that they may fear me during all their days, so that all will be well for them and for their sons after them.  And I will make an everlasting covenant with them and I shall not cease to do good things for them and, as a gift, I shall put fear of me in their hearts so that they may never go away from me‘ (Jer 32:39-40).  Ezekiel speaks in similar terms: ‘And I shall give them a single heart and I will put a new spirit in them and I will remove the strong heart from their bodies and I will give them a heart of flesh instead.  And I shall do this so that they may walk as I command and respect my decisions and carry them out.  Then they shall be my people and I shall be their God’ (Ez 11:19-20).”  (CONFERENCES, p 97) 

For St John Cassian, God’s salvation includes a heart transplant for us.  Our hardened hearts (hearts of stone!) are replaced by one’s capable of both a godly fear and a divine love.  God wants us to be His people and gives us the heart capable of faith in God.  The new heart God places in us also makes us part of God’s own people.  The healing happens in each of us personally, but having a healed heart makes us part of the Body of Christ, the people of God, the Church.

St Tikhon of Zadonsk (d. 1783) also reflects on the proper fear of God, challenging common assumptions about what fear is as well as what the proper fear of God is.  The fear of God frees us from constantly agonizing over every problem we face in the world.  The fear of God will replace in us the fear of demons and every problem.  The fear of God turns out to be faith in a loving and merciful God.

If God will allow a misfortune to befall me, I shall not escape it; even though I fear it, it will nevertheless overtake me.  But if God will not allow such a misfortune to occur, then even if all the devils and all evil men and the entire world should rise against me, they can do nothing to me, because He, the Only One, Who is more powerful than them all, will divert the evil of my enemies.  Fire will not burn, nor the sword cut, nor water drown, nor will earth swallow up, without God’s permission, for that which is created can do nothing without the Creator. 

Therefore why should I fear anything but God?  For that which God ordains is inevitable.  And why should one fear the inevitable?  Let us fear, my beloved, the One God, in order that we may fear no one and naught else.  For such a man as truly fears God has fear of no one and nothing.  The man who fears God finds everything in God.  For him God is honor, fame, riches, comfort, life and joy though men deprive him of these things.  The God-fearing man enjoys God’s mercy, for he fears to anger and insult God.  And what has one who enjoys God’s mercy to fear from the animosity and violence of his enemies?   ( A TREASURY OF RUSSIAN SPIRITUALITY, p 231)

The fear of God, according to St Tikhon, gives us strength not just to endure every problem in the world, but to overcome them.  “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)  If we remain in Christ, through any and every trial, we too will conquer in Him.  We will even overcome death itself.

 

Neither Male nor Female

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

St Basil the Great criticizes those who in his day (4th Century) thought the creation of ‘man’ meant a male, or thought that somehow the male humans more significant or spiritual than women.

But that nobody may ignorantly ascribe the name of human only to a man, it [the Scripture] adds, ‘Male and female he created them‘ [Gen 1:27]. The woman also possesses creation according to the image of God, as indeed does the man. The natures are alike of equal honor, the virtues are equal, the struggles are equal, the judgment alike. Let her not say, ‘I am weak.’ The weakness is in the flesh, in the soul is the power . . . through compassion it is vigorous in patient endurance and earnest in vigils.

When has the nature of man been able to match the nature of woman in patiently passing through her own life? When has man been able to imitate the vigor of women in fastings, the love of toil in prayers, the abundance in tears, the readiness for good works? (Daniel Hinshaw, TOUCH AND THE HEALING OF THE WORLD, p 65)

Being a Christian: No Greater Love

Perhaps I can illustrate this from a story taken from the late history of the Russian Church.  I think it shows what I am trying to say about being a Christian.  In the years of the Civil War [the Russian Civil War lasted from 1918-1923] when the opposing armies were contending for power, conquering and losing ground in the course of three years, a small town fell into the hands of the Red army which had been held by the remnants of the Imperial troops.  A woman found herself there with her two small children, four and five years of age, in danger of death because her husband belonged to the opposite camp.  She hid in an abandoned house hoping that the time would come when she would  be able to escape.  One evening a young woman, Natalie, of her own age, in the early twenties, knocked at the door and asked her whether she was so-and-so.  When the mother said she was, the young woman warned her that she had been discovered and would be fetched that very night in order to be shot.  The young woman added, ‘You must escape at once.’  The mother looked  at the children and said, ‘How could I?’  The young woman, who thus far had been nothing but a physical neighbor, became at that moment the neighbor of the Gospel.  She said, ‘You can, because I will stay behind and call myself by your name when they come to fetch you.’  ‘But you will be shot,’ said the mother.  ‘Yes, but I have no children.’ And she stayed behind.

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We can imagine what happened then.  We can see the night coming, wrapping in darkness, in gloom, in cold and damp, this cottage.  We can see there a woman who was waiting for her death to come and we can remember the Garden of Gethsemane.  We can imagine Natalie asking that this cup should pass her by and being met like Christ by divine silence.  We can imagine her turning in intention towards those who might have supported her, but who were out of reach.  The disciples of Christ slept; and she could turn to no one without betraying.  We can imagine that more than once she prayed that at least her sacrifice should not be in vain.

Natalie probably asked herself more than once what would happen to the mother and the children when she was dead, and there was no reply except the word of Christ, ‘No one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friend.‘   Probably she thought more than once that in one minute she could be secure!  It was enough to open the door and the moment she was in the street she no longer was that woman, she became herself again.  It was enough to deny her false, her shared identity.  But she died, shot.  The mother and the children escaped.  (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, BEGINNING TO PRAY, pp 20-21)

 

Bees

Through the years of blogging I have numerous times posted about our pollinating friends, the bees.  This partially resulted from my fascination with bees as a photographer.  Among pasts posts on bees are these:

The Blessing of the Bees

To Bee Or Not To Bee

How Sweet It Is To Bee

Book of the Bee

St Basil’s Parable of the Bee

Flies, Bees and Seeing One’s Own Sin

The Bee is the Worship of God

As I mentioned in these blogs, bees were recognized as a special insect for thousands of years.  They may be the only insect for which there are Orthodox prayers not only for the bees but also blessing their hives.  In the above posts you will find many quotes from Church Fathers referencing bees all in a very positive way.

Here is another from Theodoret of Cyrus in his COMMENTARY ON THE SONG OF SONGS (p 83):

“Hence also the bridegroom says to her, Your lips distill a honeycomb, bride, honey and milk are under your tongue.

Here it refers to the teachers of the church, offering religious teaching and, as it were, carrying honeycomb of bees on its lips, and distilling drops of honey, containing not only honey but also milk, and providing to each the appropriate nourishment, both suited to the infants and adapted to the mature.

Now, honeycombs borne on the lips of teachers are the divine scriptures, which contain bees that make honeycombs and produce honey, the sacred prophets and apostles; these latter fly about the meadows of the Holy Spirit, as it were constructing the honeycombs of the divine scriptures, filling them with the honey of doctrine and dispatching them to us for our benefit.

The letter resembles the honeycomb, while the sense hidden in it resembles the honey; the lips of pious teachers release the drops of this honey.

If you want to see more of my photos on bees and other things, go to my Flickr page.

The Wisdom of the Cross

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18-24)

‘Wisdom’ was something valued and sought after not only in Judaism but in pagan religions and in pagan philosophy as well.  Israel had an entire tradition of Wisdom literature, as did several of its neighboring empires.  It had wisdom teachers among its saints, kings and prophets.  Israel’s Wisdom tradition was thought to be enriched by contact with these other cultures, even when these empires were Israel’s enemies.  

Israel, however, did not think of Wisdom as being the discovery of the wisest philosophers.  Rather, Israel believed Wisdom was revealed by God and was in fact divine.  Thus, it is natural for St Paul to connect the Gospel with Wisdom, for the Gospel is pure divine revelation.  Christ is the fullness of God’s revelation and so the title Wisdom is applied to Him as well.  

“The tension between Gospel and Law is resolved by the identification of Christ with Wisdom-Torah. The apostle hopes in this way to rescue his gospel from the stigma of absolute opposition to the law. . . . The righteousness based on faith does not annul the law but brings it to its true goal, for ‘the word of faith which we preach’ is Jesus Christ, incarnate wisdom, telos nomou.” (M. Jack Suggs in ECHOES OF SCRIPTURE IN THE LETTERS OF PAUL, p 80)

Ultimately, the Law (Torah) and Wisdom are both witnesses to the Christ and are contained in His person.  Since Christ fulfills the Law and the prophets, they all are contained in Him, the Word of God incarnate.  The early Christians realized that not only was Jesus a wisdom teacher (His parables for example are in the wisdom tradition and in Mark 6:2 the people are astonished by Jesus’ teachings – what wisdom is given to Him!) but He is Wisdom incarnate.  Jesus is who the entire wisdom tradition speaks about, and so we only come to understand wisdom when we come to faith in Jesus Christ.  That is why for a long time in early Christian catechism Proverbs was a main focus of the teaching (which is reflected in the fact that we Orthodox read Proverbs on the weekdays of Great Lent when catechetical training took place in the early church).  St Neilos the Ascetic offers a stinging criticism of pagan Greek philosophers and why they fail to recognize Jesus Christ as Wisdom.

Many Greeks and not a few Jews attempted to philosophize; but only the disciples of Christ have pursued true wisdom, because they alone have Wisdom as their teacher, showing them by His example the way of life they should follow. For the Greeks, like actors on a stage, put on false masks; they were philosophers in name alone, but lacked true philosophy. They displayed their philosophic calling by their cloak, beard and staff, but indulged the body and kept their desires as mistresses. They were slaves of gluttony and lust, accepting this as something natural. They were subject to anger and excited by glory, and they gulped down rich food like dogs. They did not realize that the philosopher must be above all a free man, and not a slave of the passions who can be bought or sold. A man of upright life can be the slave of others and yet suffer no harm; but to be enslaved to the passions and pleasures brings a man into disgrace and great ridicule.   (The Philokalia,  Kindle Loc. 6005-13)

St. Maximos the Confessor believes the incarnation itself reveals the Wisdom of God.  The incarnation was the mystery God hid from all eternity – thus the incarnation itself is God’s wisdom.  St Paul proclaims: To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him (Ephesians 3:8-12).  In revealing a true human being, Jesus is revealing wisdom incarnate.  Maximos writes:

The wisdom of God is revealed in His becoming by nature a true man. His justice is shown by His assumption, at His nativity, of a passible nature identical to our own. His might is shown by His creation, through His suffering and death, of a life that is by nature eternal and of a state of dispassion that is immutable.”   (THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle  Loc. 18910-13)

Again, St Paul writes:  I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ (Colossians 1:25-28).  

It turns out that the incarnation was not God’s reaction or response to human sin.  Rather, it was God’s plan from eternity.  Before there ever was a human created, God had planned and intended to die on the cross in order to reveal not only God’s love for us, but that God is love and thus will do everything to restore humanity’s communion with God.   Thus, our sin did not ’cause’ the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Rather, God knew creating humans meant He would have to die on the cross in order to maintain communion with us.  God intended this from eternity, finally revealing Himself, His plan and our salvation in Jesus Christ.  

Thus, the cross is a sign of God’s love and wisdom which is why we read Proverbs 3:18 on the eve of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.  Wisdom is the tree of life – Wisdom is the cross which saves all of us and through which we are united to God’s love for humankind.

Crucified to the World

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.   (John 3:16-17)

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  (Galatians 6:14)

Orthodox theologian Olivier Clément describes for us what the cross of Christ reveals to us about God and about our salvation.

As the Byzantine liturgy states: when Jesus is crucified, it is “One of the Holy Trinity” that is crucified.  When Jesus is crucified, God is crucified.  In this complete subjection to the cross the Name of God is revealed.  And this Name is love, “God is love,” as St. John says.  In His love for us, God joins us in our suffering, in our rebellion, in our despair and our agony: “My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”  “My god, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Thus, henceforth, the incarnate and crucified God comes between our suffering and the void, between our rebellion, our despair, our agony and the void and, rising from the dead, opens for us strange passages of light.

For us to ‘bless the Name,’ we have only to take refuge in the cross of Christ.  Christian martyrdom is a mystical experience in which a person, at the moment of greatest suffering, gives himself over to a humble trust in Christ.  It is then that he becomes suffused with the joy of the resurrection.         (Three Prayers,  pp 16-17)

Another Orthodox theologian Nicholas Arseniev comments:

The joy and sanctification and transfiguration of life, and of the universe, which stem from the Cross…from the austerity of the Cross, and from the victory of the Resurrection.  There is no contradiction here; these things form an organic whole in the Christian experience.  The Eastern Church, while she puts a great emphasis on the ‘Life-giving Cross’ of the Lord, the Cross on which we all ought to be constantly crucified with Him at the centre of our moral being, also accents the glory of the transfiguration which is already beginning here in this world (although in an incomplete way).    (Russian Piety)

Remember God

Remember this and consider, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…‘  (Isaiah 46:8-10)

In ancient Christian and Jewish tradition, forgetting God was considered to be one of the worst sins a human could commit.  Some ancient commentators thought forgetting God was the original sin of Eve and Adam – forgetting God, they then ate the forbidden fruit.  Many ancient Christian and Jewish writers felt it was exactly the failure to remember God which led to idolatry.  Forgetting God in one’s daily life creates a vacuum, and nature abhorring a vacuum, fills the void – with other things, including false gods.  Failing to remember God becomes in humans idolatry as we treat things as gods replacing the forgotten Lord God in our hearts and minds.  Thus forgetting God doesn’t simply create a momentary lapse in our relationship with God, rather it causes us to fill the void with other gods, the idols of our hearts (Ezekiel 14:4-8).  

The narrative in the book of Exodus of the Jews in the wilderness demanding of Aaron to create a god for them  – to make them an idol – was interpreted by Jews and Christians alike as the prime example of what happens when people forget the Lord their God.  We don’t lapse into non-religion, but rather we move immediately into idolatry because we replace God with other things – idols, thoughts, beliefs, wants, desires, wealth, nationalism, the powerful, the mysterious, the celestial.   

So, all of God’s people are reminded and warned in Deuteronomy (8:1-2, 11-14, 18-19) –

“All the commandment which I command you this day you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. . . . Take heed lest you forget the LORD your God, by not keeping his commandments and his ordinances and his statutes, which I command you this day: lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness,

. . . You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you this day that you shall surely perish.”

St Isaac of Nineveh comments:

“God has wisely ordained these things of yours in this way for your own profit that you may continually knock at his door, and through the fear of sorrowful events his memory may constantly come to your mind.  Then you will be near to God in constant petition and you will be sanctified by the continual memory of Him in your heart.

St Isaac reminds us that a way to continually remember God is to seek Him and constantly knock at His door – the door of your heart! – in prayer.  “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened”  (Matthew 7:7-8).  Just seeking God already brings you near to God.  “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind” (James 4:7-8). 

When you invoke Him and he answers you, you will know that your savior is God.  And you will be aware of your God as the One who created you, your provider and keeper, because He has made two worlds for your sake: one as it were for your instruction as a school of brief duration, and the other as the house of your Father and your home forever and ever.”  (ON ASCETICAL LIFE, p 90)

As St Isaac reminds us, remembering God on earth will become our transition into heaven in which remembering God is the norm.  God in fact has prepared both earth and heaven for us.  Earth is our temporary home – in Isaac’s view it is a school to prepare us for our eternal home and life in heaven.

9 11 in Christian Perspective

Image result for 9-11 attack

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists launched a highly effective sneak attack on the United States.  Hijacking 4 jets, they crashed all four planes killing everyone on board.  Three of the jets were intentionally flown into buildings – the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City collapsed after each building was hit by a jet.  The Pentagon Building in Washington, D.C., was also targeted and badly damaged.  Nearly 3000 of our fellow humans died in the attacks.  The attacks themselves were horrific and a total shock to America.  America as a nation felt compelled to defend itself by retaliating for the attacks and entered into a series of wars and military adventures around the globe.   Whether America ever accomplished its goals militarily is still debated – some even question whether America ever had clear goals in its military response.  Some Americans have come to think critically of the American response as creating a “forever war” situation in which there really is no clear ending and so “success” is impossible to determine but the war goes on.

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For Christians in America there is the additional issue of dealing with the teachings of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ regarding enemies, whom Christ taught us to love and St Paul says the way to pile burning coals on our enemies heads is by loving them and showing them mercy, not by bombing them.   St Paul writes in Romans 12:14-21, words that Christians need to consider when faced with enemies or in thinking about 9/11.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head”  [Proverbs 25:21-22].  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Below are a few quotes from Christian saints about war and enemies based on the teachings of the New Testament (taken from Drinking from the Hidden Fountain, pp 231-232):

St Augustine said: ‘Every individual will receive from God the amount of indulgence he has himself given to his neighbor.’

St Jerome said: ‘As God in Christ has forgiven us our sins, so let us also forgive those who sin against us.’

St Gregory said: People have no right to persecute their enemies with the sword, but they should persecute them with prayer.’

St Basil the Great writes:

“An enemy is by definition one who obstructs, ensnares and injures others. He is therefore a sinner. We ought to love his soul by correcting him and doing everything possible to bring him to conversion. We ought to love his body too by coming to his aid with the necessities of life.

That love for our enemies is possible and has been shown to us by the Lord himself.  He revealed the Father’s love and his own by making himself ‘obedient unto death’, [Phil. 2:8] as the Apostle says, not for his friends’ sake so much as for his enemies. ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’ [Rom. 5:8] And God exhorts us to do the same. ‘Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us.’ [Eph. 5:1-2] God would not ask this of us as a right and proper thing to do, if it were not possible.  On the other hand, is it not perhaps true that an enemy can be as much help to us as a friend can? Enemies earn for us the beatitude of which the Lord speaks when he says: ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kind of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.’ [Matt. 5:11-12]” (in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain, pp 232-233)

Whatever our emotional reaction to the 9/11 attacks, as Christians we are to be guided not by our emotions but by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Nineteen years after this murderous assault by Islamic terrorists, we can take the time to listen to our Lord as we think about those who have declared us to be their enemies, and respond as Christ commands us.  In doing so, we would show how unlike these enemies are we who follow Christ.

Sing to and Exalt the Lord

“Let the earth bless the Lord;
let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, mountains and hills;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, seas and rivers;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, you springs;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

(Daniel 3:74-79; LXX)

Christ in Me

Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.   (Galatians 2:20)

The notion that Christ desires to dwell in each of us is proclaimed by the Apostle Paul.  The idea of Christ living in us has captured the imagination of Christians for centuries.  The Fifth Century Saint Patrick composed his famous prayer, the Breastplate, with that image clearly in his spirituality.  Modern writers as well have been awed by this idea of the Son of God abiding in us.  When Christ lives in me, He works through my eyes, hands and heart.

William Johnston describes this contemplative shift as one in which Christian mystics “will speak of the life of Christ growing within them to such an extent that they can say it is not I that sees: Christ sees through my eyes; He listens through my ears; He speaks through my lips; He blesses with my hands; He loves through my heart. Christian mysticism is not a looking at Christ and an imitation of Him, but a transformation into Christ.”   (Vincent Pizzuto, Contemplating Christ: The Gospels and the Interior Life, Kindle Loc 2579-2583)

Not only are we to be united to Christ, not only are we to imitate Christ, we are to become like Christ, we are to be transformed into Him, in His Body, the Church.

Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Poet Marin Mihalache (HOMO LITURGICUS, Kindle Loc 2341-2358) applies Paul’s teaching of Christ in me in a very creative way so that we see how every aspect of our life is transformed by Christ in me.  And, we see in his poetry, that sometimes Christ abiding in me can be uncomfortable, especially when we recognize Him as our Lord whose commands we must obey and not our personal genie who must fulfill all of our wants and wishes.   In his poem, THE SQUATTER, he writes:

God sighs in me.

I have the feeling

He has moved there

Like a squatter

Thief at night

While I was sleeping

Roaming in dreams

Vaguely remembered.

He found my chamber’s

 Door slightly open

And moved therein.

First He has brought

Just a nail from the Cross

And He has fastened it

On the inner walls

Of my bleeding heart.

Next day though

He has placed His wreath

Of thorns on the nail.

He knocks on my door

Since then unexpected

Unwelcome even

Pretending He has come

Only to make sure

That His possessions

Are surely still there.

Now He even claims

That He owns the place.

He often comes and sleeps

There in the tiny chamber

 Of my shabby heart.