Archive for Grace

Catch the Fire….

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2008 by blackincense

I spend a lot time with the desert fathers and mothers, because I see so much in them that I want to be, to acheive, to harness.  I try very hard not to pretend to myself or others, that anything I say either in person, or on the internet, could possibly have any merit on its own.  I am very much aware that in fact, nothing I say has any merit on its own.  I am not a brilliant theologian or even a student of theology and so most of what I say probably has no meaning for anyone but myself anyway.

Having recently been reminded of how disposable I am, through loss of employment, I have found my spirit restless and troubled by thoughts of inferiority, self-abasement, and shame. So it was with a troubled spirit, that  I turned to the Desert Fathers once again, this morning.  This is what I read:

“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, Abba Joseph,  stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you like, you can become all aflame.’ ”

I am reminded, that this life is not about employment, production of wealth, goods, or personal acclaim.  It’s not about attracting for oneself, the honors that go with a brilliant education or patting yourself on the back for being from the “school of hard knocks.”

My aim in this life, must be above all else, to become “all aflame”.  There is no other purpose in living, but to unite with God and to become a person with no enemies.  And as in all things, this too is given as a gift of choice.  Abba Joseph did not say “You must…” .  He said, “If you like…”

The God we worship is truly the author of grace.

An Ethiopian Monk rests outside his cell.

An Ethiopian Monk rests outside his cell.

On Being a First Century Christian: An Object Lesson From Serbia

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , , on October 1, 2008 by blackincense

I know it says something holy, something wondrous.  I sit at my window and I stare at the pages.  They are written in a language I cannot read and I cannot understand.  I am in awe of it and I am tempted to have the entire thing encased in crystal as a gift to posterity.

This past weekend, my Serbian friend Alex gave me a small booklet, worn and well used that he said is an Akathist to the Mother of God that has never been translated into English or any other language.  In my hands I hold this holy, holy, holy thing that I cannot read, cannot understand.  And I want to so badly that I cannot explain my feelings.  I finally know what it is to be a 1st century Christian.  Never mind all that I have learned, and all that I have struggled to understand.

Although I live in the modern age, and although I have had every advantage, I cannot fathom the depth of this little booklet because I cannot read it.  I cannot simply have it translated. It is in Serbian and it is a language of suffering, of holy martyrdom, of great and indescribable love.    It is a mystery to me, and I am humbled by the lack of my own education, my own failings, and my own short comings.

I hold in my hands this wonderous thing, this holy thing, this glorious thing that I am not worthy to hold, much less to read.  And yet, it has been given to me as a great Gift.  An act of selflessness that knows no boundaries, and I am asked to trust that my possession of it is enough.  I hold in my hands the Truth that is Jesus Christ who is the Saviour who came to save sinners like me.  Although I cannot read it, I can feel the holiness that radiates from it, and I know that I am unworthy to touch it.  But He does not strike me dead because he is “merciful and the only lover of mankind.”

Alex gave me a Cyrillic alphabet graph and he says I can learn to read it.  But I am truly unworthy and I am truly not a learned person. I can only pray that God will give me enough grace to say “Lord, have mercy!”

How it looks as I look up from my proper position

How it looks as I look up from my proper position