Orthodoxy & Big-heartedly life

the hopeful Tradition of the Church
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and shield.
Yea our hearts are glad in Him,
because we trust in His holy Name.
Let Your steadfast Love,
O Lord be upon us,
even as we hope in You
“.
Psalm 32: 20-22

For in this hope we are saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait for it with Patience
“.
                                                                 Rom.8: 24-25

Hope is the assurance of the good outcome
of our lives lived by faith in God.
Hope is the power of certain conviction
that the life built on faith
will produce its fruits.
Hope is the confidence,
that despite all darkness and sin,
the light of the loving forgiveness of God
is upon us to do with us and for us,
what we ourselves cannot do.

The virtue of hope goes together
with the power of faith.
Patriarch Abraham,
In hope believed against hope
that he should be the father of many nations
”.
Rom. 4: 18
And hope, like faith, is in that which is not seen.

The opposite of hope is
despondency and despair.
According to the spiritual tradition of the Church,
the state of despondency and despair
is the most grievous and horrible condition
that a person can be in.
It is the worst and most harmful of the sinful states possible for the soul.

The loss of hope is the worst possible state because without hope,
nothing else is possible; certainly not faith.
If a person is faithless, he can be chastised and convinced.
If a person is proud, he can be humbled;
impure, he can be cleansed; weak, he can be strengthened;
wicked, he can be made righteous.
But if a person is despondent and despairing,
the very condition of his sickness is such
that his heart and soul are dead and unresponsive to the grace of God
and the support of family [his brothers].

…the force of despondence…
overwhelms him and oppresses his soul;
and this is a taste of hell because it produces a thousand temptations:
con- fusion, irritation, protesting and bewailing one’s lot, wrong thoughts,
wandering from place to place, and so on.
Saint Isaäc of Syriä, 6th cnt. in “Directions on Spiritual Training

The demon of despondency,
which is called the noon-day demon” [Psalm 90: 6]
is more grievous than all others. […]
It arouses in him vexation against the place
and mode of life itself and his work,
adding that there is no more love among his family [his brethren],
and no one to comfort him. (…)
Then it provokes in him a longing for other places…
Evagrius of Pontus, 4th cnt. in To Anatolius: “On Eight Thoughts

The only remedy for despair is humility and patience,
the steadfast holding to the life of faith,
even without conviction or feeling.
It is the simplification of life by going through each day,
one day at a time, with the continual observances,
however external, of scriptural reading, liturgical worship,
fasting, prayer, and work.
In the advice of Saint Benedict [6th cnt.],
it is to remain stable in one’s place,
and to “to what you are doing” as well as you can,
with all possible attention.

In the advice of
Saint Seraphim of Sarov [19th cnt.]:
It is to visit with spiritual friends,
with those who are hopeful, merciful, joyful and strong.
It is to stand fast to the end
while passing through aridity and darkness,
until the light of blessed hope and comfort are found.
There is no other way,
and “those who find it are few”.
Matth.7: 14

But when one “fights and conquers against despondency and despair,
this struggle is followed by a peaceful state and
the soul becomes filled with ineffable joy“.
Evagrius of Pontus, To Anatolius: On Eight Thoughts

When we are attacked by the demon of despondency
– the most grievous of all, but who more than all makes the soul experienced –
let us divide our soul in two, and making one part the comforter
and the other part the comforted,
let us sow seeds of good hope in ourselves,
singing with David the psalmist:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I will again praise Him,
my help and my God”.
Psalm 41: 5 &
Evagrius of Pontus, To Anatolius: “Texts on Active Life

Sometimes people think that a certain “lack of hope” is a Christian virtue.
They think that by proclaiming that “all is lost
they please God by their humility and sorrow over sins,
their own and those of the world.

They think that the more they concentrate on the evils of men,
the more they exalt the strength of the wicked, the more they sigh and say,
There is no help for US In God!”,
the more righteous and pious they become.
But this is all wrong.
It has nothing to do with the patient suffering at the hands of the wicked,
and the patient struggle against the powers of evil that the righteous must endure,
being absolutely certain of their ultimate and total victory in God,
the source of their strength and their hope.

It is no virtue to feel weak and
helpless in the presence of the wicked.
It is no virtue to consider oneself totally
at the mercy of evil and sin.
It is a virtue rather to be always
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation
knowing and believing
that the final Victory is God’s.
Rom.12: 12

 

Pride & humbleness

Humility is in the Middle of the Heavenly Kingdom;
the Glory of God is lost by the one who missed the gain of humility.
You lose the Glory of God by the traps of the Devil, money, reputation etc.
The power and beauty of the people are vain things destroyed because of clothing [dark or shiny uniforms].
Wisdom without God is also vain.
With wisdom the devil even tried to trap Jesus Christ, but caught himself.
And the Jews have suffered the same.
The real pride of man is to know the greatness of God.
Everything is a gift of God.

The main reason underlying a person’s arrogance is unrealistic sense of superiority
or is his erroneous assumption that he has an existence
apart from and independent of God, and that he has acquired his qualities of his own doing.

When you are arrogant you feel superior to everyone else. You are right and everybody else is wrong
–at all times.
You are beyond reproach. Whatever anyone else says, if it disagrees with what you say and believe, then everything you say is gold, and everything they say is garbage.
You tend to think: “I am this powerful; you are less powerful.
I am beautiful; you are less beautiful
”, and so on.
You are amazingly boastful and strongly tend to belittle the efforts of others unless they completely agree with you.
People who lack self-esteem are arrogant because they are not comfortable with themselves.
People who have a healthy self-esteem are humble and comfortable with themselves; therefore, they take pleasure in quietly being who they are.
They don’t need to tell the world about it, and they encourage others to be able to feel the same way about themselves as they do.
Arrogance also comes from you values and beliefs.
[morals that were taught to us as a child on how to act and interact with others and in life]
Some people when growing up are tough that they are better than others and everyone else is below them; while other people are tough that everyone is equal no matter of how they look, color, race etc. and that [amongst other things] humble them.
Humble will be very strong, like grass will not fall at the time of windstorm.
You can see the strength by bending and giving way to others.
At the same time stand on own feet firmly.
Whereas pride attitudes, are like tree look very strong in the time trials and misery
that is to say storm, it will fall within no time.
Understanding the many benefits that Humility brings
should move us to cultivate and maintain this precious quality.

How can we go about gaining
this fine quality of humility?
It does not come automatically.
As with all other fine qualities,
we must work at it.
It will take time, so we must not become discouraged and think, What’s the use?
There is use, even if it does take time and effort and we keep making mistakes.
– First of all, we must have an earnest desire to be humble.
We must keep reminding ourselves that only by being humble can we please our Lord.
This is clearly shown where we read: “Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you
”.
1Petr.5: 7

And do we not need God’s undeserved kindness?
Can we afford to have Christ oppose us?
By regularly reading God’s Word
we will gain his mind on Humility.

For Humility to be able to help us in time of adversity, we must exercise it in our everyday lives,
in all we think, say and do.
Humility means lowliness of mind, not having big ideas or ambitions, and not tending to look down on others.
It means thinking like the apostle Paul, who spoke of himself as “a man less than the least of all holy ones”, and as “the least of the apostles”.
Humility should mark our conversation.
Do we always want to talk about ourselves, how we feel about things,
what we have accomplished or plan to do?
Do we often speak critically of others?

Do we often find ourselves monopolizing
the conversation?
Humility moves one to give others
the opportunity to speak.
If others are slow to express themselves, humbly, tactfully and lovingly draw them out, to their own happiness and to your own up-building.
There is more happiness in giving others
the opportunity to talk than in doing all the talking yourself.
Does humility characterize our actions?
Humility keeps one from shoving others
or always wanting to be first if one happens to be standing in line.
Truly, humility has ever so much to recommend it.
It makes for peaceful relations with Christ our Maker.
It makes for peace of mind. It makes for friendly relations with our fellows.
And it is of great help when we most need help – in times of harsh conditions.

Of all that exists on the four corners of the earth, what, O mortal man, can make us proud except stupidities and demonic illusions. Did we not enter into the world naked and wretched and are we not going to depart this world in the same manner?
Everything that we have, did we not borrow it; and by our death, are we not going to return everything? Oh, how many times has this been said and overheard?
The wise apostle says, “For we have brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it”
[ITim.6: 7].
And, when we offer sacrifice to God of ordinary bread and wine, we say,
“Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee”
[Holy Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom].
For nothing that we have in this world is ours:
not even a crumb of bread nor a drop of wine; nothing that is not of God.
In truth, pride is the daughter of stupidity,
the daughter of a darkened mind, born of evil ties with the demons.

Pride is a broad window through which all of our merits and good works evaporate.
Nothing makes us so empty before men and so unworthy before God as does pride.
When the Lord is not proud, why should we be proud? Who has more reason to be proud than the Lord, Who created the world and Who sustains it by His power?
And behold, He humbles himself as a servant, a servant to the whole world: a servant even to the death, to the death on the Cross!”

Saint Nicholai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid

God’s realm is totally different
from the world around us.
In fact, Kingdom wisdom seems foolish to the world.
In God’s Heavenly Kingdom
the first shall be the last,
little children are the model citizens,
and people are not regarded according to their ability, income, gender, or race.
We are to put the King and His Kingdom business before the care of our own livelihood.
This Kingdom is truly upside down.

Kingdom laws are summed up in one word: love.
The air we breathe is Grace, and the national characteristic is Holiness.
One of God’s highest goals for His people is freedom
– freedom to love Him and freedom to love each other.

Sunday of the Publican & Pharisee

The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee begins the Lenten Triodion, the liturgical book used in the services of Great Lent. It is the Sunday after the Sunday of Zacchaeus and Sunday before Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This is the pre-Lenten start of the Easter cycle of worship in the Orthodox Church.

The focus this Sunday is on the Gospel
of Lucas 18:10-14, in which two men went
to the Temple to pray.
One was a Pharisee, an externally decent and righteous man of religion, and the other was a publican, a sinful tax-collector who was cheating the people.
Though the Pharisee was genuinely righteous under the Law, he boasted before God and was condemned.
The publican, although he was truly sinful, begged for mercy,
received it, and was justified by God.

On this Sunday in the preparation for Great Lent, Orthodox Christians are to see that they have not the religious piety of the Pharisee, but the repentance of the publican.
They are called to think about themselves, in the light of Christ’s teaching, as they really are and to beg for mercy.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted
“.
Luc.18: 14

Kontakion       Tn 4
Let us flee from the pride of the Pharisee!
And learn humility from the Publican’s tears!
Let us cry to our Savior,
Have mercy on us,
Only merciful One!

Do I View Others as Bigger Sinners?
One huge indicator of spiritual health and maturity is when a Christian views his sin as being at least
as great, if not greater, than the sins of others.
The apostle Paul described his own attitude this way: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst“.
1Tim.1: 15
Paul ministered to people out of that deep sense of being a bigger sinner than anyone he was trying to reach with the Gospel.

Spiritual pride leads me to think
that others are bigger sinners than me.
In fact, if that attitude is present in the heart and mind of a believer,
it is impossible to grow spiritually.
The minute I begin to entertain that arrogant attitude, I start to carry myself with an air of superiority toward others.
That “air” is very different than the “breath” of the Holy Spirit inside believers.
He will never lead me to think highly of myself….ever.
It is very natural to become proud of my “righteous efforts” for the Lord.
It is also natural to compare my works and my life of discipleship to that of others.
A mature disciple of Christ does not live according to the natural way of looking at others.
A mature disciple is filled with the Holy Spirit….and therefore, he or she has tons of compassion for anyone caught in sin….and anyone who does not know Christ.
Simply put, mature disciples don’t view others as bigger sinners.

Most of the Pharisees mentioned in the New Testament were not known for their humility. In one instance, “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector‘”. Luc.18: 11
Notice that as he compared himself in his mind with others, he truly thought that his personal righteousness was superior.
That is where he went way off the rails. He was trusting in his personal righteousness….rather than in the righteousness of Christ.

The Pharisee went on to say, “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get“.
Luc.18: 12
Those were a couple things which he felt made him superior to others.
How sad. He didn’t get it.
None of us have any righteousness of our own that is even one cut above anyone else.
As long as we concentrate on our own “righteous acts“, we will continue to live in pride and self-deception.

Meanwhile, “the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’“.
Luc.18: 13
Wow….what a difference in attitude.
He did not consider himself worthy before God….and therefore, he didn’t waste his time comparing himself to others.
He was so aware of his own sinfulness that he didn’t fall into the trap which had ensnared the Pharisee.

How aware are you of your own sinfulness….relative to your awareness of the sins of others?
Your spiritual health will depend largely upon whose sin you are looking at….and where you are turning to find the cure for your sinful attitudes and behavior.

Take this quick test. Ask yourself this question.
Who are the biggest sinners?
Your instant response will tell you a lot about your spiritual health. Did your mind go immediately to others….or to yourself?
If it went to others, here is the way to deal with spiritual pride.
Admit it to yourself, and to God.
Confess that sin to the Lord.
Ask Him to forgive you because of the cross of Jesus. He will.
Then ask the Lord to give you a new heart, and a new mind….one that has genuine humility.
Ask Him for it everyday….and then one of these days, ask yourself that question again. Before long, you will hopefully be able to truthfully say what Paul said:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst“.
1Tim.1: 15
That mindset and heartfelt perspective is an essential attribute of a healthy disciple….
and it is a God-given attitude that must be in our hearts before we can be used by God to reach anyone for Christ.
Daan Delzell