Friday, July 18, 2014

Some Thoughts on Christian Community

"I am the Vine and you are the branches..."

All who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ, and not only clothed: indeed, they have become members of Christ, members of His Body, the Church.  "One cannot have God for his Father without having the Church for his Mother" (St. Cyprian).  "Wherever two or more of you are gathered, there am I in the midst of them."  So we proclaim when we venerate the Cross at the end of Liturgy: "Christ is among us."  "He is and will be."  So He is in the midst of the Church, and so He is in the midst of two or more of the baptized who call upon His name; then we could say that each group of two or more, each Christian community, are a form of mini-Church, a micro-ecclesia, which is united to the remainder of the Church.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sod of the Heart
Icon by the hand of Antonios Fikos
"And in his sowing, some fell along the road: and the birds came and ate it...[To] all hearing the word of the kingdom and not understanding, the wicked one comes, and snatches what was sown in his heart: this is the one sowed along the road."--Mt 13:4,19

The sowing of the seed in our hearts is not of our doing: what we have control over is what soil we have prepared.  The sower sows freely, and without His sowing our preparation of the soil is ineffective: "How can one believe without hearing?  And how can one hear without a preacher?"  Therefore we must prepare the soil of our hearts well, not letting it become like a road.  Hear what St. Cyril of Alexandria says: "A wayside is almost always hard and unbroken, because it is trodden down by the feet of all those who pass that way, and seed is never sown there.  No sacred or divine word, therefore, will be able to enter those who have minds that are hard and unyielding, for it is by the aid of such words that the joyful fruits of virtue can grow."

Friday, July 11, 2014

God of Powers
 A mosaic of a Seraph in the Hagia Sophia, Constantinople

"Lord, God of the Powers, blessed is the man who hopes upon You."--Ps 83:13

"Holy, Holy, Holy are You, Lord Sabaoth": so we acclaim the Lord during the Triumphant Hymn, the Hymn of the Bodiless Hosts.  But what does that word "Sabaoth" mean?  It means that the Lord is powerful, He is great, and He is worthy to praised by all of creation, not just men.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Rewards of Godliness
"Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask for reward,
Save that of knowing that I am doing Your Will."
--St. Ignatius of Loyola, "Prayer for Generosity"

During the course of my schooling at a Jesuit school, I became well acquainted with the above prayer by St. Ignatius.  It is a prayer to dedicated to the Lord despite all the difficulties that come our way during this lifetime on earth.  "In the world you will have trouble," informed the Lord, and this is very true.  Christians will always experience friction with the aspects of the world that have not been fully enlightened by the light of Christ.  This is the basic theme of most of the prayer: Lord, teach me to serve You despite the difficulties the world will place on me.  One line has intrigued me, though: "To labor and not to ask for reward."

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Righteous Rahab

"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with the disobedient, receiving the spies with peace."--Heb 11:31

"And in the same way was Rahab the harlot not by works justified, receiving the angels, and by a different way sending them out?"--Jas 2:25

Of the many men and women whose lives we read of in the Old Testament, we account many as models of righteous and early types of Christians.  The Letter to the Hebrews has a long list of them: "By faith a better sacrifice Abel rather than Cain brought to God...," and so it continues through so many figures.  It is easy to see the faith of Abel and Enoch, of Noah and Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob, of Moses and Joshua, of the Judges, of David and Samuel, and so many others.  Yet many, I think, miss the harlot listed among the righteous: Rahab of Jericho.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Obedience to God's Appointed
Christ the Vine, showing the Apostles who were first appointed as guardians of the Church

"Obedience is always freer and more faithful when it proceeds from love rather than from fear."

The Lord did not leave each man to his own will and thoughts: He did not leave us orphans.  In addition to the Spirit that He grants to all, He also gave us the elders of the Church to lead us.  The pope, patriarchs, bishops, and priests are given the task of guiding the Lord's flock, and they will have to render an account for their guidance at the Judgment.  This burden of responsibility is heavy upon them, and heavy too can be our obedience to them, for their directives may not be according to our opinions.  Yet, "that obedience is salvific which is hard: and that which you like and is easy is of little value" (Elder Michael of Valaam).