Holy Patience in the Holidays

The hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season can test the patience of the best of us.  But as Vincent Pizzuto notes, it also is a chance for us to practice being patient!

Modern suburban life presents any number of interactions or situations that may be interpreted either as roadblocks or as invitations to love, depending on our ascetical posture. Commonplace experiences we have come to accept as necessary evils of modern-day life are in fact schools of love: long lines, crowded subways, heavy traffic, fractured families, hostile neighbors, dysfunctional work places, and so on. If we perpetually experience these things as personal assaults or affronts to our inner peace, then we will never find the interior stillness we seek.  ( Contemplating Christ: The Gospels and the Interior Life, Kindle Loc 2241-2244)

If we change our way of looking at the world around us, and stop seeing it as an attack on our inner peace, and rather see it as an opportunity to practice inner peace in the midst of a challenging or broken world, they we might find the peace we want because we will put forth the necessary effort to have it.  Reminds me of a comment by chess master Jonathan Rowson who writes:

“You may have already figured out that our inalienable right to pursue happiness is self-defeating. Happiness may be with us, baked into our present moment, eagerly awaiting our grateful acknowledgment, but nothing is less likely to make us happy than trying to pursue it. On this analysis, we are right to desire happiness; it’s just that the predatory process of chasing it drives what we apparently want out of reach.”

We can’t pursue our inner peace, but we can realize it in any given moment if we choose to do so.  Every moment is the right time to practice inner peace.  Inner peace is not “out there” somewhere, it is within us!   We can’t pursue it outside of our self.  We have to create inner peace no matter what is happening around us. As we create inner peace, we find externals become less significant.  We can’t rely on them for inner peace, rather we have to learn how to establish peace within our hearts and minds and then we can approach the outside world with this attitude.  If we manage some success in this, then we can graduate to what St. Mark the Ascetic  describes:

“Real knowledge is patiently to accept affliction and not to blame others for our own misfortunes.”  (The Philokalia, Kindle Loc. 3627-28)

Judas betrays Christ with a kiss

Not only can we be at peace when there is trouble around us, we can even be at peace when trouble finds us.

St Nicholas the Wonderworker

St Nicholas the Wonderworker is commemorated on December 6 each year.  He is one of the most beloved saints of the Church and has a popularity far beyond Orthodoxy.

4162162364_c40fbfdb78_w

I’ve often wondered why or how he became so popular as a saint when in many ways his actions seem to me to be what I would expect of any Christian bishop.  He showed mercy to many, kindness to the poor, and is noted for his charity.  Is it the case that there really were so few bishops who did these things that Nicholas stands out as such an exception?   In the mid-9th Century when St. Methodius wrote a life of St. Nicholas, he noted that hardly anyone had heard of him.  In the 11th Century his popularity is noted through much of Europe.

Since St Nicholas is noted for his acts of love and mercy, here is a portion of a sermon by St Gregory Palamas on love of neighbor, which is an appropriate theme as we honor St Nicholas of Myra.  St Gregory is actually talking about St John the Theologian:

As he [St John] was amongst the foremost apostles, was particularly dear to Christ, and was called the beloved disciple, he speaks to us of the chief virtue, namely love (cf. Gal. 5:14), saying that God Himself is love, and anyone who has love has God, and he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God dwells in him in whom love dwells (cf. 1 John 4:16). He shows that love’s energy within us is twofold, and divides it, without destroying its unity, into love for God and love for our neighbour, teaching that these two depend on one another for their existence, and calling anyone who thinks he has one without the other a liar (1 John 4:20).

39046666182_934d88af72_w

The sign of our love for God, he tells us, is that we keep His word and His commandments (cf. John 8:31, 1 John 5:3), as the Lord Himself taught, saying, “He that loveth me will keep my commandments” (cf. John 14:15, 21). “This is my commandment”, He said, “that ye love one another” (John 15:12), and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Do you see how love for God is inseparable from love for each other? That is why the beloved disciple says, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).      (On the Saints, Kindle Location 830-843)

One Self, Many Selves (II)

This post is a continuation of a reflection on Nikolai Leskov ‘s short story, “Figura.”  The previous post is One Self, Many Selves (I).  Leskov presents in the story a man, named Figura, of 19th Century Russian nobility and an army officer who is assaulted by one of his soldiers.  Figura wrestles with what Christ tells him to do with someone who has struck him on the cheek because he knows what the military will demand of him as an officer and what his social rank requires of him.  He decides to follow the teaching of Christ and forgive the soldier who acted not in malice but because he stupidly had gotten drunk while on duty.

What Figura wrestles with internally is a significant part of being a Christian, and yet he is not a Christian alone.  Figura is part of a society which is segregated by status as well part of the military which has an established hierarchy.  He is part not only of the Church but also of a nation which considers itself to be Christian.  His individual decision is thus subject to evaluation by the society around him.  Russia and Russian Orthodoxy did not embrace the individualism created by the Western Europe’s Enlightenment of the 18th Century.  Figura does not reject society and the military’s right to judge his actions.  He accepts that they must, but he decides he also will live according to his conscience and accept the consequences of his own behavior.

Figura’s superiors learn of the event and call him to give account for what happened.  They react to Figura’s narrative as if he has become a religious fanatic (which also was common at that point in Russian history).  They remind Figura that as nobility and an officer he is obligated to enforce discipline.  And though even the Russian army was considered a Christian army, he is told, “You had no right to forgive him!”   His commandant forcefully reproaches Figura about forgiving a drunk and disorderly soldier who had assaulted him: “You only yourself to blame, and whoever put such ideas into your head.”

This Figura knows.  It is Christ who has put the idea of forgiveness in his head.  Christ is to ‘blame’ for forgiveness which his fellow officers see as a weakness.  Figura is not blaming Christ, however, but embracing Him.

His commandant reminds him: “A military man must get his Christian principles from his oath of allegiance, and if you weren’t able to make something agree with it you should have gone to get advice from the priest.”  We see the many worlds a Christian must live in and the many ‘selfs’ each of has or must have.  Figura certainly hasn’t learned his Christianity from the military any more than someone can learn science from the book of Genesis.  He does see there is a conflict in values, even if the army is said to serve Russian Orthodoxy.  [Which in the very modern world raises the serious theological issues as to how the Russian Orthodox Church can bless nuclear weapons, which it has done.  Is the Russian Church getting its Christian principles from the oath of allegiance to the military and to its nation?  How could anyone who claims to follow Christ bless weapons of mass destruction?  Does the Church really have any justification to do so?  Can it really believe that the Lord Jesus Christ blesses such a thing?  or has the Church lost its moral compass and simply become a department of state?  The questions we face today are the same as Leskov did in the 19th Century.]

We also see in the story a sense that the clergy can by some magical power relieve moral contradictions or prohibitions.  The commandant believes that an Orthodox priest can somehow make it OK for an Orthodox Christian to follow the military oath of allegiance over the Scriptures or can somehow soothe the conscience so that one can violate Christ’s teachings because one has made an oath of allegiance to the state.  Not only can the priest do this but apparently a Russian Orthodox priest is under obligation to eliminate by some trickery of logic any ethical problems Russian military orders might create for an Orthodox Christian.   The priest either is able to absolve anything or use sophistry to declare an evil good.  In this way, the Church is not there to uphold Christ’s teaching but rather, more to shore up Christian society and help enforce appearances.  The Russian Church as institution in this instance serves the demands of the state – at least it appears Leskov is making this criticism.  Well did the Prophet Isaiah proclaim:  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  (Isaiah 5:20)

Figura is told that his fellow officers now refuse to serve with him because they see him as a coward.  Others had heard that Figura had tried to keep the assault a secret.  They thought he did so only so he could stay in the military with honor since he had been dishonored by a peasant soldier.  Figura’s many ‘selfs’ struggle with the opinion of his peers and he finds that to be the worst of all – that they misunderstood his rationale and judged him harshly.  He realizes what was really important to himself is that others think well of him – so though he had done something for noble reasons, he felt a dismal failure since others had a low opinion of him.  Looking good was better than being good, except Figura knows he can no longer live by that lie.

Figura is called before his general, who is portrayed in the story as almost fanatically Orthodox.  The general assumes he understand Figura – that Figura wants to become a monk and that is why he didn’t care about his nobility or rank. But Figura tries to explain, “I had never run across anything in the Gospels about any kind of pride in nobility, but had read only about the pride of Satan which was an offense to God.”   Although there is nothing wrong with the General’s ears, he is hard of hearing because he believes he already understands Figura and ignores what Figura tells him.  The general is Russian Orthodox to the core and offers ‘friendly’ advice to Figura: “The Bible is dangerous – it’s a worldly book. A person with ascetic principles ought to stay away from it.

Here we encounter another issue about Christianity which is very pronounced in Orthodoxy.  On the one hand Orthodoxy has believed it can ‘baptize’ entire cultures, nations, empires.   On the other hand, there is the sense that if you really want to take Christ seriously, you have to withdraw from society (even Orthodox Christian society) and become a monastic.   The question is can someone live in society if he or she wants to follow Christ to the full?  Even if  in the world you personally could live a life of self-denial, taking up the cross and martyrdom,  you still have to deal with family, spouse, children, boss, neighbors, employees.  Is it possible to live the Gospel and please all of these people as well?  Is it possible to live the Gospel and want “the best” for your spouse and children?   Orthodoxy has tended to resolve this by upholding monasticism as the only true way to follow Christ.  Figura however makes it clear he has no inclination toward monasticism.  He believes he can live as a Christian with a personal conscience in the world.  For Leskov it appears that he has a Romanticized idea of the individual who can live in the world and yet not be part of it.  It is a similar idea that we see in America’s Thomas Jefferson and his romantic ideal of the yeoman farmer – everyone can live an idyllic life given enough land and resources to live independently from all others.  It is the ideal upon which limited government is based.   Yet even Adam and Eve alone in the vast expanse of Paradise could not live this idyllic life and fell into the self-love of individualism.

In Leskov’s story, the general assumes Figura’s Christian idealism with his rejection of monasticism means Figura has become some kind of non-Orthodox religious nut.  However, in the story he is not unsympathetic to Figura as he himself is a religious maximalist and he wants to help him find a position in society. Figura declines his offers.  The General tells Figura he has no choice but to dismiss him from the military for his failures.  This is exactly what Figura has decided for himself and tells the general as much.  There is humorous exchange as the General denies Figura can leave the military by choice and insists that he is ordering Figura to leave and Figura must realize he has no choice but to obey.

At the end of the story, we see Figura wishing to bring his many ‘selfs’ into his one Christian self. “…what I valued most of all was my freedom, the possibility of living by one code and not by several, without arguing, without betraying myself, and without trying to prove anything to anybody if he had not already appeared to him from above.”  The realization that his conscience might bring him into disagreement with the Church is a problem in societies in which cultural Christianity predominates.  The state tames the church and makes sure the church produces good citizens who obey the dictates of the state.  Figura can no longer accept the cognitive dissonance of his mind  which is created by being a cultural Christian.  He wants to follow Christ and not just follow rules and regulations for appearance sake nor to accept a sophistry which claims the power to declare the good evil and the evil good.

It is this oneness of self which Orthodox spirituality would say is the goal of following Christ.  Instead of there being a church self, a family self, a neighborhood self, a racial self, an ethnic self, a work self, or a self with any other loyalties, there would be one self who was consistent in every situation – the self which is united to God and devoted to doing God’s will.   Only then can a harmonious symphony emerge within one’s self.  Christ says:  “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”   (Luke 16:13)     Leskov’s character realizes he cannot serve God and state because that is serving two masters which Christ said cannot be done.  Leskov presents the notion of the individual self who must choose to follow Christ even in a ‘Christian” nation and to accept the cross which this will lay upon him or her.

Thankful or Thanksgiving?

31113165237_b7e996ed18_w

“It is comforting (if not a bit scandalous) that the Bible rarely commands us to be thankful but to give thanks. I don’t know if there is a linguistic reason for that, but it helps to bring thankfulness down to a practical level. Giving thanks is an action rather than a feeling, and actions are often more finite—and easier to muster—than feelings.

33994423721_cde428d878_w

I may not be able to be thankful for all of time and eternity, but I can probably manage to give thanks for a second or two for the apple I’m eating or the comfortable chair I’m sitting in. Or I can take a time-out from my frenetic impatience and say thank you to the bagger at the grocery store or the stranger who held the door open for me.

36466208042_3e14f2fa20_w

Giving thanks—as opposed to merely being thankful within oneself—is inherently relational: you can only give thanks to or for someone or something else. As soon as we offer thanks for anything or anyone, we reach outside ourselves. We connect ourselves to the blessings God has surrounded us with. In doing so, we lay hold of a new, transfigured way of being-in-the-world   (Nicole Roccas , Time and Despondency: Regaining the Present in Faith and Life, Kindle Location 1743-1751)

48139967977_77899fabbc_w

The point is that you can be full of thanks for what you have or for what is going on, but do you ever actually give thanks?   Thankfulness can be a feeling within, but thanksgiving is activity directed towards those who made us feel gratitude.  There is a great difference between being internally joyful and pleased, and actually giving thanks to others, or to God.   Thanksgiving both the Feast and the activity is actually offering thanks to the Creator or to someone.  It is turning our thankfulness into action and into our relationship with God and others. It is getting out of the self and moving toward the other. It is the difference between self-love and true love which is always directed toward another.  Thanksgiving isn’t supposed to be the feast of satiation or self-satisfaction, but rather of giving credit and thanks to all of those responsible for everything we enjoy.

The Tree of Life

Happy are those who find wisdom…
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy.

(Proverbs 3:13,18)

49038860173_9f12dfa601_w

“… for they have not understood that the tree of life which Paradise once bore, now again the Church has produced for all, even the ripe and comely fruit of faith.   Such fruit it is necessary that we bring when we come to the  judgment-seat of Christ, on the first day of the feast; for if we are without it we shall not be able to feast with God, nor to have part, according to John, in the first resurrection.  For the tree of life is wisdom first begotten of all.”   (Methodius, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Kindle Location 2365-2370)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  (Revelation 22:1-2)

48977567182_146265064b_w

Faith as Synergy

 

The saints frequently describe the life of faith as a synergy between the human and God.  Each has their part to do which is part of the mystery of faith in an omnipotent God who grants free will to His creatures.  God does not do for us what we must choose to do for ourselves.  God warned Noah about the flood but did not build him the ark.  On the other side of that, we need so many things from God which we constantly seek, such as God’s mercy.  Our best efforts will fall short if we don’t connect with God.   I think the Virgin Mary expresses it well in her hymn in Luke 1:46-50 where though she is fulfilling the heights of being human she recognizes this is God’s wish and will for the world and not just for her life.  If there is no “God with us” our greatest miracles will be no more than a temporary delay of the universal decline into entropy.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.”

This cooperation between the Creator and human creatures is readily found in Orthodox spiritual writings.

St John Chrysostom says: ‘A man’s readiness and commitment are not enough if he does not enjoy help from above as well; equally help from above is no benefit to us unless there is also commitment and readiness on our part. These two facts are proved by Judas and Peter. For although Judas enjoyed much help, it was of no benefit to him, since he had no desire for it and contributed nothing from himself. But Peter, although willing and ready, fell because he enjoyed no help from above. So holiness is woven of these two strands. Thus I entreat you neither to entrust everything to God and then fall asleep, nor to think, when you are striving diligently, that you will achieve everything by your own efforts.”  (St Theodoros the Great Ascetic, The Philokalia, Kindle Loc. 11142-51)

An important point for us – even being a chosen apostle does not guarantee synergy or communion with God.  Being Apostles was no advantage to either Judas or Peter  over us in terms of cooperating with God for salvation.  If we think faithfulness is hard and would be made easier if Jesus did a bit more, we might remember it didn’t help Judas to be one of the Twelve Chosen and to walk with Jesus daily.  Faith is the willingness to cooperate with God to accomplish God’s will.  It doesn’t guarantee that were won’t be struggle or loss or sorrow or setback.  It does mean believing despite all these struggles.  It means being judged in our current circumstance, not in some better time.   “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not” (2 Corinthians 8:12).  We are not told to do our best in perfect circumstances, rather we are told to be perfect in the circumstances we find ourselves.  Which means in the end we need God’s mercy.

The Prayer of Manasseh

This is the 5th post in this blog series meditating on Psalm 51.  The previous post is David the Image of Repentance.

The 51st Psalm presents us with a particular vision of repentance which I believe is reflected in the Liturgy of the Orthodox Church.  This understanding of repentance does not demand that we think of ourselves as vile, worthless worms wallowing in the mire.   Nor does it envision us as being angels in the flesh.  Rather it views us as being human – created in God’s image and likeness, created to have dominion over creation, created to be united to divinity and share in the divine love and life.  We are created to be the temple in which God dwells on earth.   Yet, we also have free will which means we are not automatons who are programmed to do what God wants.  Rather, we have to choose to do God’s will if we want.  We are conscious beings who can realize our willful disobedience to God as well as our mistakes.

Psalm 51 as a prayer of repentance shows us to acknowledge our sins and errors, to “man up” as it were and own our behavior, admitting to God when we are wrong.  We have the example in Adam and Eve of what not to do when we sin (Genesis 3).   For they failed to admit to their wrong doing and tried to place blame outside of themselves.   King David, on the other hand, shows himself to be every bit the sinner that Adam was, yet he places himself before God, the merciful judge, and trusts himself to whatever God decides.   David does not despair, deny God or his sinfulness, engage in self-pity, think everything is inconsequential, become nihilistic, or spiral out of control.   Instead, David despite his personal failings continues to recognize the Lordship of God.  David sees his own behavior as of limited value and consequence, still occurring within the confines of God’s universe.  So though he is God’s chosen king, he recognizes his choices are not always right and he still has to answer to the Lord.  Repentance consists of understanding this right relationship with God, with creation and the rest of humanity.  Repentance is a course correction, right-sizing, recalculation, re-evaluation, self-examination in which one recognizefs God’s rightful lordship and one’s own servant role even if one is emperor.  In praying Psalm 51, we are recognizing our need for God to be God and to do everything in our life that we need God to do for us to be rightfully human.

There is another prayer of repentance in Orthodoxy that is similar in content and structure to Psalm 51 which can be found in many Orthodox prayer books and in the compline service.   It is a prayer of repentance of the King of Judah Manasseh mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33 which describes an incident in the 7th Century BC.  “During his distress, Manasseh made peace with the Lord his God, truly submitting himself to the God of his ancestors.  He prayed, and God was moved by his request. God listened to Manasseh’s prayer and restored him to his rule in Jerusalem. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was the true God” (vs 12-13).  As with King David’s sin and Psalm 51, repentance for Manasseh yields a restored and right relationship with God.  The focus is not on Manasseh’s remorse and regret but on his submitting to the Lordship of God.  However, scholars think the prayer itself comes from the 2nd Century BC since it is not found in the ancient Jewish texts.   The prayer begins:

Lord Almighty, God of our ancestors, God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their righteous children, you made heaven and earth with all their beauty.  You set limits for the sea by speaking your command.  You closed the bottomless pit, and sealed it by your powerful and glorious name.  All things fear you and tremble in your presence, because no one can endure the brightness of your glory.  No one can resist the fury of your threat against sinners. But your promised mercies are beyond measure and imagination, because you are the highest, Lord, kind, patient, and merciful, and you feel sorry over human troubles.  You, Lord, according to your gentle grace, promised forgiveness to those who are sorry for their sins.  In your great mercy, you allowed sinners to turn from their sins and find salvation.

As with many Orthodox liturgical prayers, the opening of Manasseh’s prayer speaks only of God and all that God has done or is doing.  The purpose of this opening is to establish the Lordship of God – it tells us to whom we are praying and why we recognize this God as our Lord.  Then the prayer continues:

Therefore, Lord, God of those who do what is right, you didn’t offer Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who didn’t sin against you, a chance to change their hearts and lives.  But you offer me, the sinner, the chance to change my heart and life, because my sins outnumbered the grains of sand by the sea.  My sins are many, Lord; they are many. I am not worthy to look up, to gaze into heaven because of my many sins.  Now, Lord, I suffer justly. I deserve the troubles I encounter. Already I’m caught in a trap.   I’m held down by iron chains so that I can’t lift up my head because of my sins.  There’s no relief for me, because I made you angry, doing wrong in front of your face, setting up false gods and committing offenses.

Manasseh’s prayer, more than Psalm 51, accepts the notion that “I” being a sinner am unworthy of my title of being human.  It acknowledges that sin is very powerful in this world, and that “I” have not resisted its power.   This prayer more openly accepts that since God is the Lord, “I” deserve judgment and all that is happening around me is related to or effected by my sin.  Whereas Psalm 51 only speaks of the mercy of God, Manasseh sees God’s anger and accepts it as a just reaction to his behavior.

 Now I bow down before you from deep within my heart, begging for your kindness.  I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned, and I know the laws I’ve broken.
I’m praying, begging you:
Forgive me, Lord, forgive me. Don’t destroy me along with my sins. Don’t keep my bad deeds in your memory forever. Don’t sentence me to the earth’s depths, for you, Lord, are the God of those who turn from their sins.  In me you’ll show how kind you are.  Although I’m not worthy, you’ll save me according to your great mercy.  I will praise you continuously all the days of my life, because all of heaven’s forces praise you, and the glory is yours forever and always. Amen.

The conclusion of Manasseh’s prayer is more in line with Psalm 51, though expressing things more in the negative.  Manasseh tells God what he needs God to do: forgive me, don’t destroy me (but do destroy my sins!), don’t remember my sins forever, don’t condemn me.  Manasseh has hope that God will show kindness and save him.  His response, like David’s, will be to praise God.  Repentance leads to praise not just to self-denigration.  If one repents one spends the remaining time of one’s life giving glory and praise to God.  Repentance leads us to the Liturgy where we give thanks to God and praise God for all the blessings God’s bestows upon us.  This is true repentance – not remorse and regret, but thanksgiving and praise of God.

St. Maximos the Confessor expresses this same truth:

 “Every genuine confession humbles the soul. When it takes the form of thanksgiving, it teaches the soul that it has been delivered by the grace of God. When it takes the form of self-accusation, it teaches the soul that it is guilty of crimes through its own deliberate indolence.  Confession takes two forms. According to the one, we give thanks for blessings received; according to the other, we bring to light and examine what we have done wrong. We use the term confession both for the grateful appreciation of the blessings we have received through divine favor, and for the admission of the evil actions of which we are guilty. Both forms produce humility. For he who thanks God for blessings and he who examines himself for his offences are both humbled. The first judges himself unworthy of what he has been given; the second implores forgiveness for his sins.”  (THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 18272-80)

Next:  What does God Ask of Us?

Prayer is God

7342515708_983ca96522_mThe purpose of prayer is to enable our union with God.  It’s purpose is not to make all our wants, needs, desires, hopes and wishes known to God.  God already knows all of those things.  We can reduce prayer to a list of wants and needs, but then we miss the very purpose of prayer.  St Gregory of Sinai leads us into an ever deeper understand of what prayer is because it becomes obvious that for the Christian prayer is everything.  St Gregory writes:

Or again, prayer is

the preaching of the Apostles, an action of faith or, rather, faith itself, ‘that makes real for us the things for which we hope‘ (Heb. 11:1),

active love, angelic impulse,

the power of the bodiless spirits, their work and delight,

the Gospel of God, the heart’s assurance,

40856463594_c8a99963a9

hope of salvation, a sign of purity, a

token of holiness, knowledge of God,

baptism made manifest, purification in the water of regeneration,

a pledge of the Holy Spirit, the exultation of Jesus,

the soul’s delight, God’s mercy,

38869107504_e4098059f3

a sign of reconciliation, the seal of Christ,

a ray of the noetic sun, the heart’s dawn-star,

the confirmation of the Christian faith,

the disclosure of reconciliation with God, God’s grace,

God’s wisdom or, rather, the origin of true and absolute Wisdom;

30404476265_7290f9ea51

the revelation of God,

the work of monks, the life of hesychasts, the source of stillness, and expression of the angelic state.

Why say more?

Prayer is God,

who accomplishes everything in everyone (cf. 1 Cor. 12:6), for there is a single action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, activating all things through Christ Jesus.”  

THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle 41660-41675)

Being Newly Baptized Forever

Paul was baptized and illumined by the light of truth, and in this way became a great man; as time when on, he became a much greater one. For after he had contributed his fair share – his zeal, his ardor, his noble spirit, his seething desire, his scorn for the things of this world – there flowed into him an abundance of the gifts that come from God’s grace. 

Imitate him, I beg you; and you will be able to be called newly baptized not only for two, three, ten or twenty days, but you will be able to deserve this greeting after ten, twenty, or thirty years have passed and, to tell the truth, through your whole life. If we shall be eager to make brighter by good deeds the light within us – I mean the grace of the Spirit – so that it is never quenched, we shall enjoy the title of newly baptized for all time.”

(St. John Chrysostom, Ancient Christian Writers: Baptismal Instructions, pp. 88-89)