Forgiveness

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 by cockett1

A certain Christian man went to consult Abba Silouan.

“I have a deadly enemy, Father,” he confessed. “The evils which he has brought upon me are innumerable. A short time ago he gained a large piece of my land by deceit. He slanders me wherever he is and he speaks ill of both me and my family. He has made my life unbearable. Now, finally, he is even plotting to take my life. A few days ago, I learned that he attempted to poison me. But he is not getting away with anything else. I have decided to hand him over to the law.”

“Do as you like,” Abba Silouan told him with indifference.

“Do you not think, Father, that when he is punished, and especially severely, as he should be, his soul will be saved?” asked the man, who was now beginning to show concern for the welfare of his enemy’s soul.

“Do whatever gives you peace,” the Saint continued to say, with the same air.

“I am going straight to the judge, then,” the Christian said, getting up to leave.

“Do not hurry off so,” the Saint told him calmly. “Let us first pray for God to bring success on your action.”

He began the ‘Our Father.’

“And do not forgive us our trespasses, as we do not forgive those who trespass against us,” he heard the Saint saying in a loud voice, as if making an error in this verse.

“You made an error, Abba. The Lord’s Prayer is not said that way,” the Christian hastened to correct him.

“Nevertheless, that is the way it is,” the elder answered in all of his impassivity. “Inasmuch as you have decided to hand over your brother to the court, Silouan is offering no other prayer.”

From the Desert Fathers

Thinking Positively

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 by cockett1

“Repentance is not self-flagellation; it is an opening flower.” Met. Ware

We once asked Father Paisios, “Father, you constantly tell us to think positively. We would like you to give us some advice on how to deal with when people come to tell us that various priests charge a great deal of money for performing the Holy Mysteries.  They even say that some priests are involved in immoral acts and, in general, make severe accusations against them, presenting evidence to justify these accusations. What answers can we give to those who accuse the clergy?”

The Elder said, “I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist. People either belong to one or the other. The first kind of person resembles the fly which is… attracted to filth… When a fly finds itself in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and land on top of some filth it finds on the ground. It will wallow in it, feeling comfortable with the foul smell. If the fly could talk, and you were to ask it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: ‘I’ve no idea what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets, and filth.’ There are many people who resemble the fly thinking negatively, always looking for the evil things of life, ignoring and rejecting all the good there is.

People in the other category are like the bee, which looks always for something sweet and pleasant to land on. When a bee finds itself in a room filled with filth, but where there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the filth and land on top of the sweet. Now, if we were to ask the bee to show us where the garbage was, it would answer: ‘I do not know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey, and sugar.’ It only knows the good things in life and ignores all evil. People in this category think positively and see only the good side of things [whenever possible] covering up evil, in order to protect their fellow man. Contrarily, people in the first category look to expose evil and to bring it to the surface [even when it is unnecessary].

“When someone comes to me and begins accusing other people, putting me in a difficult situation, I relate to him the foregoing example and I ask him to decide in which category he wishes to belong, so he might find people of similar kind with whom to associate.

— Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

Simply pray

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2009 by cockett1

“Do not be too sophisticated in the words you use when praying, because the simple and unadorned lisping of children has often won the heart of your Heavenly Father.”
St. John Climacus: The Ladder of Ascent

Watch your tongue

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2009 by cockett1

” When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:3-6)

“When you leave your cell, be sparing with your tongue, because it can scatter in a moment the fruits of many labours.”
St. John Climacus: The Divine Ascent

Morning Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2009 by cockett1

“Devote the first fruits of your day to the Lord, because the whole day will belong to whoever gets the first start. It is worth hearing what an expert told me: “From my morning,” he said, “I know the course of the whole day.”
St. John Climacus: The Divine Ascent.”

Becoming fire

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 by cockett1

Christianity has become much too cerebral in many ways. It’s all head and very little heart, at least in that part of the Anglican Church I serve in, the Church in Wales. But Christianity is not an idea its life. It’s not just a sensible, logical or intellectually satisfying concept, its a falling in love, head over heels, with God.

I write this, in some sense, for myself, because for many years – too many to mention – the Christian faith has been too often about the development of an idea rather than an encounter with a person. I have fallen for the outer trappings of faith rather than the inner reality, experienced mystically through prayer and the sacraments.When Moses stepped aside to see the bush that was burning, he was initially fascinated with how the branches were burning but not being consumed. However it was not the bush and the non-combustible properties of its parts that, in the end, changed his life and the life of his people forever, it was the reality that was within, beyond and above the fire. That’s why I love the following story from the lives of the desert fathers:

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’

Abba Lot did everything right, everything expected of a monk or hermit. He said the office, prayed, fasted, meditated and tried to live out his life in a God-pleasing way. But he discovered somewhere along the way that that was not enough for him. He sensed that there was still something more or even something missing, and he wanted it.

We can all relate to God in this way and be good Christian people, living out the faith as a mixture of religious rules and self-discipline, but as with Abba Lot we sense, if we are open to it, that there is more. A lot more. In fact the greater part of what the Christian faith is, has all along, been missing.

So Abba Lot  visits Abba Joseph and asks him, for us: “What else can I do?”  Abba Joseph’s answer, complete with visual aid, is that if we want the fulness of God, God has to have the fulness of us. If we want this somethinig more, we must come to that place where God consumes us in our waking, sleeping, thinking, praying and living. Sure he wants our head and our intellects, but that is only a part of the total.

I too want to become fire. I don’t want to play at being a Christian, I want to be one. I don’t want to live out of my intellect, I want to live out of my heart as well. I don’t want luke warm, I want hot. I don’t want just a snippet of God, I want as much as I can bear. I don’t just want the bush, I want the fire.

Church Services – For believers or unbelievers – Part 2?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2009 by cockett1

Continuing on from the last blog we turn now to the New Testament and the Orthodox Study Bible has more surprises. In the article “Liturgy in the New Testament Church” it states:

“The key to comprehending liturgy in the New Testament is to understand the work of the High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, who inaugurates the new covenant. Christ is “a priest forever” (Hebrews 7:17, 21). It is unthinkable that He would be a priest but not serve liturgically:  “forever” suggests  He serves continually without ceasing, in the heavenly tabernacle. Further, he is called not only a priest but a liturgist: “a Minister [Greek. leitourgos, lit., “liturgist”] of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected (Hebrews 8:2). Christian worship on earth, to be fully Christian, must mirror the worship of Christ in heaven.”

These terms are not used without thought about what they are intended to relate to. Words have meanings and the words ‘priest’ and ‘liturgist’ clearly refer to liturgical functions. Why use them unless they mirrrored what was happening in worship here on earth and there was a continuity of understanding in the New Testament which was reflected in existing practice?

The article continues:

“Moreover, Christ is “Mediator of a better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6). What is that covenant? In the words of the Lord, “This cup of the new covenant in My blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25). Just as the blood of bulls and goats in the old covenant prefigured Christ’s sacrifice to come, so the eucharistic feast brings to us the fullness of His new covenant offering, completed at the Cross and fulfilled in His Resurrection. This once-for-all offering of Himself (Hebrews 7:27) which he as High Priest presents at the heavenly altar is an offering in which we participate through the Divine Liturgy in the Church. This is the worship of the New Testament Church.”

New Covenant does not mean that the Old is old and obsolete in terms of its liturgical practice because at the heart of both is sacrifice. In the Old Testament – bulls, goats etc – in the New – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The article then deals with other texts which, given the Hebrews texts take on new meaning. Here are a few:

1. Acts 13:2: “As they ministered to the Lord [lit’, “as they were in the liturgy of the Lord”] and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul.'” We learn that (a) these two apostles were called by God during worship, and (b) the Holy SPirit speaks in a liturgical setting.” (A shock to Pentecostals perhaps).
2. Acts 20:2: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them,”  Communion was held each Sunday.
3. Romans 16:16: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” A kiss of greeting was common in this ancient culture. The “holy kiss”, however, was an element of the Christian liturgy that signified the people of God were reconciled to one another, so that they might receive the Body and Blood of Christ in peace.
4. Ephesians 5:14: “Awake, you who sleep, /Arise from the dead, / And Christ will give you light.” This is an ancient baptismal hymn, already in use by the time Ephesians was written. Other examples of creeds and hymns of the New Testament times are seen in 1 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 2:11-13.
5. Hebrews 13:10: “We have an altar” reveals the continuation of the altar in New Testament worship.
6. Revelation 1:10: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Many scholars believe John saw his vision of Christ during the Sunday Liturgy, as the Lord appeared to him “in the midst of the seven lampstands” (Rev 1:13). Lampstands would be found in the Christian sanctuary just as they were in the Hebrew temple.

The point being made then is that the worship of the New Testament church was unashamedly liturgical, and complete with a priesthood (re-named presbyterate)  and overseen by Bishops and accompanied by deacons. But the question is, who was it all aimed at? For the answer to this see the next blog.