Troubled by Passions

All believing Christians should be aware that Christ is in all other believers and we should have so much love for them that we’d be prepared to sacrifice our soul for their sake. We have no right to call other people bad, nor to think of them as such. Instead, we should think of them as good. If you see people troubled by the passions, don’t hate them, but hate the passions that are warring against them. If you see them suffering from wicked desires, feel even more kindly towards them, in case you yourself are tempted, since you’re vulnerable and prone to the entanglements of sin.

St. Symeon the New Theologian

What shall I do?

You ask, “Shouldn’t I be doing something?” Of course that is necessary. Do whatever falls to your hands, in your circle and in your situation—and believe that this is and will be your true work; nothing more from you is required. It is a great error to think that you must undertake important and great labors, whether for heaven, or, as the progressives think, in order to make one’s contribution to humanity. That is not necessary at all. It is necessary only to do everything in accordance with the Lord’s commandments. Just exactly what is to be done? Nothing in particular, just that which presents itself to each one according to the circumstances of his life, and which is demanded by the individual events with which each of us meets. That is all. God arranges the lot of each person, and the entire course of life of each one is also His all-good industry, as is each moment and each meeting.

          St. Theophan the recluse

Laziness, Grace, Humility, & Love

Disciple: Laziness has a strong grip on me; how can I be delivered from it?

Elder: If you fight against laziness indecisively, you will never overcome it. But as soon as you rise up against it with a firm resolve, with God’s help, although not without inner suffering, you can gain the victory. To resist even though you are being attacked is the sign of a faithful and good soldier. A person must watch over himself right up to the grave when it comes to this vice, lest he hear on the last day that most terrible sentence of the Knower of hearts, “Thou wicked and slothful servant” (Matt. 25:26).

Disciple: What is it that attracts the grace God more than anything else?

Elder: If you would be simple-hearted like the Apostles, would not conceal you human shortcomings, would not pretend to be especially pious, if you would walk free from hypocrisy, then that is the path. While it is easy, not everyone can find it or understand it. This path is the shortest way to salvation and attracts the grace of God. Unpretentiousness, guilelessness, frankness of soul – this is what is pleasing to the Lord, Who is lowly of heart. “Except ye become like children, ye shall not enter the Kingdom of God” (Mt. 18:13).

Disciple: Can I suggest to a brother that he go in repentance to his elder about a sin he committed?

Elder: You have too much anxiety about your brother’s salvation. I think it is better to pray that the Lord Himself inspire him. What would happen if God, Who knows all things, completely fulfilled our every wish? I think, but I’m not saying for certain, that everyone in the world would perish. Even though He does not reject the prayers of His chosen ones, God still does not at times fulfill their desires. And this is only in order to arrange everything in a better way, in keeping with His divine intent.

Just because you see yourself making no progress does not mean that you are not making any progress at all. Such feelings can implant sincere humility…. When we have had no success in the virtues, there is no closer means for salvation than humbleness of mind.

Disciple: I don’t see love among the brethren…

Elder: It is impossible that there not be love among them. That is what you should think, and that is the correct conclusion at which you should arrive. If you don’t see love among them that is because you do not have any love yourself. You yourself must first manifest the characteristics of genuine love, and then you will see that love dwells among them and is abundantly preserved within you. Moreover, we have a commandment of God to love our fellow man with a pure heart, but for us to seek love from them is nowhere mentioned.

  St. Leonid of Optina

Seasons and Cycles

The new liturgical year in the Church begins with the first of September.  We all feel the cycles of this earth in the seasons, holidays, our work schedules, the school schedule, etc. These earthly cycles demand our time, attention, and energy and we thank God for each day that we are given. As the new liturgical year comes to us we are reminded that this is not all there is to this life. These seasons and cycles are a part of our life but there is something more. There is something that seems to be waiting patiently beneath the surface. There is a life that is available to us that is not so much separate from the cycles of this world but that fulfills them, sanctifies them, and transfigures them into that which is true and life-giving.

In the hymnography of this day we hear that He who inscribed the tablets on Mt. Sinai now receives the book of the prophet and reads aloud the words that we see above from Isaiah. Christ has come to “preach the Gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Christ is the fulfillment of all that is and will be. He has come to show us the way to the true reality of what we have been created for. Fr. Alexander Schmemann says in his book, For the Life of the World:

“Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence…To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that ‘something more’ is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it. They are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life.”

Though our life can, at times, seem utilitarian and mundane, there is “something more.” Christ enters into the routine cycle and seasons of our lives and He fills it with Himself. We don’t stop the everyday realities of our lives but we invite Christ into them and ask Him for His Grace, His mercy, and His strength to faithfully live a life in the way we have been created to live.

We invite Christ into our life by following His commandments in any given situation. If someone offends us we forgive, if we stumble and sin we get back up, confess, and repent of our sins, when we see someone else sin we show mercy and do not judge, if someone is in need we help, when we eat we give thanks to God, if it is time to pray we pray, if it is time to rest we rest, if it is time to work we work, in all things and at all times giving thanks to God. We strive to live out the life that He has offered to us through His words and in His example. By living in this way we take the cycles and seasons of this world and allow them to be sanctified by God. Life for us then becomes True Life.

 

0 Fashioner of all creation, Who in Thine authority hast appointed the times and seasons: bless Thou the crown of the year with Thy goodness, 0 Lord, preserving in peace Orthodox Christians and Thy city, and save us through the prayers of the Theotokos.             

Troparion of the Indiction Tone 2

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” Isaiah 61:1-2