Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Mystery of St. John the Theologian


"The beholder of ineffable revelations * and recounter of the highest mysteries of God, * the son of Zebedee, * who set down in writing the Gospel of Christ, * hath taught us to theologize * concerning the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

 The harp of heavenly songs played by God, * the recorder of mysteries, * the divinely eloquent mouth, * doth beautifully chant the hymn of hymns; * for, moving his lips as though they were strings, * and using his tongue as a plectrum, * he prayeth that we be saved. 

Proclaiming with thy thunderous tongue * the hidden word of divine wisdom, * O beloved of God, * thou ever criest out, continually moving thy lips: * In the beginning was the Word! * And thou instructest every man in the knowledge of God. "
--Stichera at the Lamp-Lighting Psalms at Great Vespers for St. John the Theologian

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Shoots of Salvation Out of Perdition"

"And they took hold of him and brought him to the Are-op′agus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. So Paul, standing in the middle of the Are-op′agus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.  And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’"
--Acts 17:19-28 (Epistle Reading for the Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Pascha)

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Self-Esteem

"For the highest of human tasks is for a man to allow himself to be completely persuaded that he can of himself do nothing, absolutely nothing."
--Søren Kierkegaard, "Man's Need of God Constitutes his Highest Perfection," Edifying Discourses, Vol. IV

"For it is not the man who commends himself that is accepted, but the man whom the Lord commends."
--2 Cor 10:18

In modern psychology, self-esteem is the big fad.  If we do not feel like we are perfect, if we don't feel like we can do everything, we are considered as broken and in need of fixing.  We supposedly cannot function in the world without being puffed up with self-esteem.  Pseudo-psychology says the same thing: by believing in how awesome we are, we draw good things to ourselves.  (Just think of The Secret and the "law of attraction.")  Yet how true is this drive to self-esteem?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Kingdom and the Battle

"Thy Kingdom come. By this sweet word we obviously offer God this prayer: Let the opposing battle front be broken and the hostile phalanx be destroyed. Bring to an end the war of the flesh against the spirit and let the body no longer harbour the enemy of the soul. Oh, let them appear, the royal force, the angelic band, the thousands of rulers, the myriads of those who stand on Thy right hand, that a thousand warriors may fall on the front of the enemy! Strong, indeed, is the adversary, formidable, yea, invincible to those bereft of Thy help. Yet only as long as man is fighting alone; when Thy Kingdom comes, the pangs and sighs of sorrow vanish, and life, peace, and rejoicing enter instead."
--St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Lord's Prayer III

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Deer and Serpents

"As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God."
--Ps 42:1

"Listen to something else that is to be observed in the deer. It kills serpents, and after killing the serpents its thirst is inflamed all the more intensely. Having killed the serpents, it runs to the brook more speedily than ever. The serpents signify your vices. Destroy these wicked serpents, and you will have greater longing for the fountain of truth."
--St. Augustine of Hippo, On Psalm XLI,I §3

God Gives the Growth

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."
--1 Cor 3:6

This verse is really all that can drive my work on this blog.  I see no fruits of my labor: a few views here and there, mostly from image searches (which is strange, considering that almost no images have ever originated from me).  I have no stories of people affected by my posts, whether conversions or renewals of faith.  I plant, I sow seeds, I water...yet I can cause nothing.  All of the many, many hours that have gone into this blog feel wasted.  It seems like I am a failure as a Christian: I have not seen conversions happen from my efforts, I have not seen renewals of faith.  I do not go out an speak to random people on the streets like extroverts do: my best work is done inside, alone.  My God-given gifts are more book-based, yet they seem like God-rejected gifts, for they seem to do nothing.  All of my work feels like it's for naught.

Yet I continue to work.  Why?  Is it for some sick sense of masochism, that I like seeing all of my hours wasted on work that I know to be fruitless?  No: it is because I trust in God.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The "Kiss of Love" and Conjugal Chastity

"Greet one another with the kiss of love."--1 Pet 5:14.

The "kiss of love" (ἐν φιλήματι ἀγάπης, with the kiss of love), is something that all Christians are called to give each other, according to St. Peter. While it is a common idea that we do not need to give each other a literal kiss if it is not a common practice in our culture, the idea of showing Christian love to each other in a physical expression still exists today, especially in the liturgical "kiss of peace" that has been brought back in the Roman Sacred Liturgy of the past century and which is often reserved to hierarchs in the Sacred Liturgies of the Eastern Churches. The "kiss of love," though, could, in a less literal way, be interpreted as applicable to specific groups of Christians as well, and that is what I wish to discuss here.

God Is Light

"The highest light is God, unapproachable and ineffable, neither grasped by the mind nor expressed in language. It illumines every reason-endowed nature. It is to intelligible realities what the sun is to sense-perceptible realities. To the extent that we are purified it appears, to the extent that it appears it is loved, to the extent that it is loved it is again known."
--St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 40.5

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Prayer Rule of the Theotokos

The Rosary is a well-known prayer in the Western Christian tradition, and I have often heard the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, composed by St. Romanos the Melodist, described as the Byzantine equivalent.  However, there is actually a prayer much closer in style to the Rosary in the Byzantine tradition: the Prayer Rule of the Theotokos.  This rule was, according to tradition, revealed by the Theotokos in the 8th century, and it used to be prayed by all Christians; over time, however, it fell out of use.  St. Seraphim of Sarov and his spiritual descendant St. Seraphim Zevzdinsky began to revive this practice, and Philip Rolfes, blogger at The Master Beadsman and maker of prayer ropes for various traditions (Rosaries, Komboskini/Chotki, Mequtaria, etc.), compiled information on various forms of this rule (see this post and the following four for his work).  He also created a system for praying only 5 mysteries a day rather than the full 15 that the original version of the rule calls for, with each day matched to the 5 mysteries that are most appropriate for it.  Blogger Seraphim at Reeling but Erect did some work creating some alternate opening and closing prayers for the rule as well.