Being Orthodox…

When times are challenging I’m reminded of how good it is to be an Orthodox Christian. Now that’s not a put down of anyone else so much as a simple remembrance of the great gifts that Orthodoxy shares with unworthies like myself.

Connected directly to Christ through the Apostles? Check. Over 2000 years of lived experience and wisdom in the Faith? Check. Saints and friends to guide, and pray for, me as I live this life? Check. Rock solid commitment to everything that truly matters in the Faith? Check. True love and mercy from the Source of such things? Check.

Certainly I know that I’m a sinner and need to always keep close to God. I know, as well, that I’m in a community of people like me so everything isn’t hunky dory all the time. Still, however the world goes  I’ve been given much, all of it underserved but still gratefully received. If the world does temporarily go to hell in a handbasket (and my Faith teaches me that all such times are only temporary)  I’m glad I have something deep, rooted, and strong, even in weakness, to help see me through.

Sometimes that can make all the difference.

As I Have Grown Older…

I have come to view the weeks of spring with a greater sense of appreciation. As the snow fades and the green emerges from the ground I feel the cool air give way to warmth and listen to the birds announce life’s return to the trees. There is a kind of gentle hope in all of that, a hope that means more to me now that I realize there are more years behind than ahead, more days past than days to come.

Hope and spring allow me to endure the craziness of the world, the sense of the whole thing flying off its axis and spinning madly through space and time. More than anything else these days I’m simply sad at what I see around me, a great delusion with victims who have no idea of how to escape and transcend. I find myself caught up in it as well, drowning in a stormy sea and waiting for the Master to reach down and pull me from the waves. Yet, at least  I know there’s a Master there and couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t. Such is the world these days, the world of headlines, 24 hour access, and a culture designed to make drones of us all.

Then spring comes and resurrection and a still, small, voice speaks with a clarity beyond the storm. Life begins anew. It always does. Crazy, bitter cold winters can wreak havoc with their temperamental winds driving us to huddle inside by any fire we have left to keep us warm. Yet they never last. Life, sanity, joy, better things, they always return. Sometimes, of course, there is much pain in the journey to that return, but the return, like spring, is inevitable.

One day my body, worn down by all the days that have passed will enter its winter slumber. One day the world around me will enter its night as well. Perhaps it already has. Yet I will rise and so will the world, both by the same force, the grace of God, God’s eternal spring which even death, the death of a person or the death of a culture, cannot overcome. What the birds in the trees announce now. the angels will then, and so the hope inside me never dies.

 

 

When Someone…

tells you, as a Christian, that “You’re on the wrong side of history” remember two things. First, history is fluid. What is on the “wrong side of history” now may very well change as the times change. We know from our recent Orthodox experience that the Communists were confident that history was on their side and religion would disappear. In actuality only a few moments of history, painful ones for sure, were theirs and then only partially. Only those who have no understanding of eternity place all their hope in a moment or era of history. The second thing to know is that history is in God’s hands and to be with, and in, God is always to be on the right side of history because it is His realm. Moments come and go, but God, and all things godly, endure.

It’s Not So Much…

the spiritual and moral breakdowns I see all around me that causes me to fear. More often than not I simply grieve for those people who are looking for something, accepting less than the best, and then suffering the consequences. We’re paying a steep price because we thought that by discarding the “rules” we would be free, and have, instead, often found ourselves in even greater slavery.

What gives me pause, though, is that one day at the darkest point of this breakdown, people will not choose to understand that the solution is the rebuilding of themselves as moral and spiritual beings but will rather opt for the easy answer of a dictator, someone who promise them simple answers, scapegoats for their problems, and takes away freedom in the guise of providing security and predictability.

That truly frightens me.

Wisdom…

“We cannot ask God and His holy saints that they remove all the difficulties from our missionary road and everything that causes us moral suffering. We can only pray that He help us carry the cross, and enable us to survive the difficulties and sufferings that await us on our missionary road. Our service is giving birth to spiritual children for God; and what birth is not accompanied by pain? And for this we must be prepared in advance. But we have a source of great consolation. To serve with energy and success we must have confidence beforehand that our labor is not in vain and that our work will be crowned with success.”

(St. Nicholas of Japan)

Mindful Meditation…

is good for you, so the article says. Well, we Orthodox Christians have been “mindfully meditating” for over 2000 years and have a very well developed tradition in this area. One of the great tragedies in our Faith  is that so many Orthodox have less than a clue about the rich meditative tradition of their own Faith. They will seek out gurus, yoga teachers, pundits, and new age practitioners unaware of the deep riches into which they were baptized. The very things they will pay money to discover are those things which Orthodox Christian Faith has given away to seekers since Christ walked the Earth.

Here’s the Bad News…

Life as a Christian is tough and probably going to get tougher. If you wish to be an observant Christian in this culture you’re going to struggle, face temptations and challenges, endure the hardships of being a perpetual outsider, and be constantly faced with the sins of the world and your own.

The days of easy culturally accepted Christian Faith are over, have been for some time. In the years to come there will be fewer places to run, fewer places to hide, and even the most benign forms of observant Christianity will increasingly be seen as a public scandal. You’ve been warned. Prepare for it now, not like some sort of “prepper” hiding out in the woods waiting for an apocalypse but rather by increasingly cultivating within yourself a prayerful, peaceful, and holy life, a life centered on Jesus Christ.

Now here’s the good news.

As things darken the contrast  between light and dark will grow. The good in you, if it is the good of God, will shine brighter than ever as the world around you grows more bleak. In this contrast, vividly displayed in our own lives, will be a message for those many who are looking to escape the madness of our times. It won’t be a message of superiority, of self-righteousness, of uncritical judgment, or of false holiness, but rather an invitation, couched in the moments of your life, to encounter the living Christ who is, was, and always will be the Light of the world.

There will be more dark times ahead but it is the darkness before morning. We humans are stubborn, incorrigible, and full of ourselves. Trials, large and small, may sometimes be the only way God can get our attention and draw us from the sickness of the world to the life He wishes us to share with Him. If we cannot learn by being wise we often learn by experiencing struggle, the results of our own inclinations that God can use for the greater and eternal good. Yet God is still God and the Light that He shines in the world, and the people who struggle to keep that Light alive in themselves, will never ultimately perish from the Earth.

This is no time for fear, this is, rather, a time to respond to the world we see around us by drawing closer to God. As we do this we ourselves will change, and, in time, so will this desperate world. In Christ, by Christ, and with Christ we are the revolution we’ve been waiting for.

 

It’s Not About Panic…

when we hear about the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, pushes against observant Christian people and institutions in our culture. After all Jesus told us such things would be a routine part of our life and what makes us think that as Americans we have some kind of exemption?

Powerful interests in our culture have reasons to marginalize, or indeed eliminate, the existence of observant Christianity and why should we be surprised to see them act in their own self-interest? The idea of a transcendent faith, vision, or morality strikes at the heart of the myths that pervade our godless consumer culture so why are we so often dumbfounded when the institutions and people who stand to benefit from such an arrangement want us to go away?

Moral human beings, especially of the Christian variety, need very few laws so why should we be puzzled when the state, which for the sake of its own survival and necessity,  encourages a kind of amorality that allows it to place itself, with all its bureaucracies, where once a well-formed conscience existed? If you want the State to grow and expand you need people with a vacuum where a conscience used to be. Such people then become dependent, not on an informed soul, but on the State with all its rules, plans, and priesthoods. So why should the State, which thrives on the neediness of the morally dysfunctional, seek to encourage that which would limit its scope and power?

Corporate America, as well, needs people without a sense of the transcendent, people who will react emotionally and see their fulfillment in an endless stream of consumer goods which it, conveniently, will provide at a cost. If you think about tomorrow, or even about eternity you may not be the kind of person who responds to “Just do it” and therefore you will be of limited value to the great economic machines of our age. So it makes sense, in one sort of way, for such concerns to push for laws and policies which favor the libertine as pursuing such a lifestyle is of significant benefit to those who control the production of the goods and services which define it.

One could go on about the academy which is, in fact, often a place not of expanding thought but rather of self-perpetuating secular orthodoxies enforced with the passion of an inquisition and the tolerance of a prison. If you believe there is more to life than just the here and now pursuit of knowledge within the strict confines of a materialistic vision you are a threat to the very heart of the academy and the academy, if it cannot change you, will at least ridicule and ostracize you as primitive or uneducated.

Indeed, if you are an observant Christian you have, your are, and you always will be a revolutionary of the most dangerous kind. Your life becomes, over time, a living witness, by contrast,  to the nature of the lies that undergird much of what has been considered “normal”. You live as a citizen of another world whose rules often stand in stark contrast to the prevailing spirit of a lost age. You destroy, not with violence but rather with light. You do not kill but you have within you the power to transform yourself and others. You are evolving into something that will, over time, look more and more like God and the people, powers, institutions, and principalities that have a vested interest in the world as it is will take notice and do what they can to divert or stop you because if you succeed the people they have made captive will be set free.

So when you see the great powers of this world use force and law and the easily manipulated mood of the herd against you there is no need to panic.  Such things must be and it is a sign that having failed to convince they resort to force. Endure. Love. Do no violent harm. Pray. Grow deep. Shine. We are watching the end of an empire and the beginning of redemption.