On the Holy Confirmation & Being Human

img_5130“Confirmation is thus the personal Pentecost of man, his entrance into the new life in the Holy Spirit, which is the true life of the Church. It is his ordination as truly and fully man, for to be fully man is precisely to belong to the Kingdom of God. And again, it is not his “soul” alone— his “spiritual” or “religious” life— that is thus confirmed, but the totality of his human being. His whole body is anointed, sealed, sanctified, dedicated to the new life: “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,” says the Priest as he anoints the newly baptized, “on the brow, and on the eyes, and the nostrils, and the lips, and on both ears, and the breast and on the hands, and the feet.” The whole man is now made the temple of God, and his whole life is from now on a liturgy. 

It is here, at this moment, that the pseudo-Christian opposition of the “spiritual” and the “material,” the “sacred” and the “profane,” the “religious” and the “secular” is denounced, abolished, and revealed as a monstrous lie about God and man and the world. The only true temple of God is man and through man the world. ch ounce of matter belongs to God and is to find in God its fulfillment. Each instant of time is God’s time and is to fulfill itself as God’s eternity. Nothing is “neutral.” For the Holy Spirit, as a ray of light, as a smile of joy, has “touched” all things, all time— revealing all of them as precious stones of a precious temple. 

To be truly man means to be fully oneself. The confirmation is the confirmation of man in his own, unique “personality.” It is, to use again the same image, his ordination to be himself, to become what God wants him to be, what He has loved in me from all eternity. It is the gift of vocation. If the Church is truly the “newness of life”— the world and nature as restored in Christ— it is not, or rather ought not be, a purely religious institution in which to be “pious,” to be a member in “good standing,” means leaving one’s own personality at the entrance— in the “check room”— and replacing it with a worn-out, impersonal, neutral “good Christian” type personality. Piety in fact may be a very dangerous thing, a real opposition to the Holy Spirit who is the Giver of Life— of joy, movement and creativity— and not of the “good conscience” which looks at everything with suspicion, fear and moral indignation. Confirmation is the opening of man to the wholeness of divine creation, to the true catholicity of life. This is the “wind,” the ruah of God entering our life, embracing it with fire and love, making us available for divine action, filling everything with joy and hope. . . .”

Fr.Alexander Schmemann  (For the Life of the World)

 

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Burning with Desire to see the Lord

“No matter how greatly we have corrupted our hearts through sin, there comes a time when, like Zacchaeus, we burn with the desire to know the Lord, to know just Who He is. No matter how dense the darkness of the pit of sin into which we have sunk, sooner or later the moment comes when the question of eternity refuses to be ignored any longer. We begin to see our past life as one massive betrayal of God, as a wholly unjust offence against Him. Our spirit now yearns for things eternal, for we have began to see the vanity of anything that does not bear the seal of eternity. This is a crucial moment, for our eternal future depends entirely on the direction we choose to take. If we turn to the living God and accept His word, ardently desiring to see the Face of the Lord, He will enlighten us and begin His work of salvation in our soul. We will embark on an adventure with God. All we need is the desire to know Him, together with a little humility. This desire is the small part we offer up to God in faith, and without it God will not act. To our small part He then adds the infinitely greater part that is His grace, which enlarges our hearts fourfold and saves us.”

-Archimandrite Zacharias (Remember Thy First Love)

Whether I Want it or Not – Praying with my stubborn will

“Whether I want it or not, save me, O Lord. For to save a good man is no great thing, and to have mercy on the pure is nothing wonderful, for they are worthy of Thy mercy. But show the wonder of Thy mercy on me, a sinner. In this reveal Thy love for men, lest my wickedness prevail over Thy unutterable goodness and mercy. And order my life as Thou wilt.’ – St.John Dasmascene 

the Burning Bush – The dawning of Lent

This morning, in matins, we read from the book of Exodus 2:23-3:5

The Church chose to greet the dawn of Lent with two powerful accounts, one of utter brokenness and one of a blazing vision of the All-Holy and glorious God.

First, we see the Israelites bathed in a dark state of hopeless despair, brokenness, lying lifeless, only waiting for the coming of death to deliver them from their bitter misery.

Who of us is not acquainted with their groaning? Who of us hasn’t tasted the bitter bondage of sin? Who of us hasn’t cried from depths hitherto unknown, mourning and yearning for an end to such brokenness? I have.

We’ve let our ego take over and have slowly succumbed to live a life of death, dragged to and fro from one passion to another, from one wounding sin to another.

Then, another awe-struck wondrous scene is read. Moses before the Burning Bush. There, no darkness prevails. There, the Uncreated Light has engulfed nature in divine glory and bathed it in victory over the destruction of fire. There, we see a vision of glory, holiness, beauty, life, wonder and awe.

When Moses draws near this glorious vision, the I Am tells him to remove his sandals for this, this is a HOLY place.

This place is no host of darkness, or brokenness, and certainly not sin. No, this place is set ablaze with a glorious fire that reveals the vision of the Holy God. HOLY from the greek AGIOS means “OUT OF THIS WORLD”- fully above and beyond the fallen world, fully beyond and above any form of beauty or glory we might have encountered on earth, fully above and beyond the awe and wonder we might have known on earth. HOLY.

And not only is this a place, it is a state of living, of being in which every common bush, every daily action every encounter is sacred and afire with God’s glory. Everything becomes holy. Your evening tea, your books, your hands, your pots and pans, your appointments…Your life becomes a living icon of holiness.

And this is what God desires for us.

“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” Ephesians 1:4

Yes, this is what GOD desires for you. This was His purpose for you and I from the beginning. Adam and Eve created in the image and likeness of God lived in the garden, both naked and clothed in  the Uncreated light of God, free, utterly free, sincere, true. There was nothing to hide, nothing to conceal. They were at harmony with God, with one another, and with nature. Glorious and beautiful. This is what God willed and wills for us.

Can you see my sister what the Church wants to teach us ?

We have succumbed to live a life destroyed by the fire of sin and the burden of the ego. And we groan with much bitterness for we are broken, confused and hopeless. Yes, we may even be bathed in darkness, and lying in utter despair of life.

BUT this is NOT what God, the Great I AM, the Beautiful Shepherd, the Conqueror of Death has intended for us.

Today again, He looks upon you and I and initmately acknowledges us, receiving our groaning and wounds and remembering His covenant of Love with us. And through His Word woos us and calls us to return. 

“I will whistle for them and gather them, for I will redeem them” Zechariah 10:8

And there, He shows us the vision of the Burning Bush, inviting us once again to return, to return to a life set ablaze with His love, a life of Holiness, a life bathed in His Uncreated Light, a life lived beyond and above the cares and lusts of this earth, a life where darkness and death are unheard of, where true freedom and peace rule the heart with rejoicing. A life of pristine simplicity and utter sincerity.

Will you return?

Repentance as we are taught, is a desire to return, a thrusting of oneself in the bosom of God. It is simply a return to God and a realization “that we have lost our spiritual beauty and purity and we must want to recover them” (Fr.Alexander Schmemann). 

Surely His heart churns within Him to receive you, cleanse you, mend your wounds, heal your brokenness and clothe you in His Uncreated Light. Come. 

 

The Jesus Prayer

“The prayer of Jesus, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me” — the ceaseless cry to God, our Saviour — purifies our soul. All our salvation rests upon the invocation of Jesus and union with him. Let us cry to him to come and He will cure us by his coming. Let us moan like a sick man and He will come lovingly to help like a doctor. Let us cry like the one who fell among thieves and the good Samaritan will come to clean our wounds and guide us to the Inn, that is to the theoria (vision) of the Light which consumes all our being. When God comes into our heart, He gains victory over the devil and cleanses the impurities which the evil one has created. The victory, therefore, over the devil is the victory of Christ in us. Let us do the human part — that is to invite Christ — an He will do the divine part — He will gain victory over the devil and cut him off.” (A night in the desert of the Holy Mountain)

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The Beginning of Great Lent

Beloved sisters, again, we are wooed to the wilderness with the Beloved, let us hasten to lift our hearts and eyes towards this beautiful journey to Pascha when we who die with Christ are raised in Him at His holy resurrection.

This week is a week of preparation. A week to shift gears. To struggle to turn our hearts and minds towards the spiritual journey. Join me. Let us do so prayerfully with one another.

Restored

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
I am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.” Joel 2: 25-27

The courage to let God “restore” to me the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust”. what a mighty and sometimes fierce yielding to God it takes. Sometimes I cling so strongly to my resignation or rebellion. I messed up.
As we take time to look back into last year, and this too can be a mighty task for some of us, we might feel frustration, despair…man how I wish things had been better!
My dearest sister, let go.
let Christ come, let Him be incarnated in in the barren parts of your life.
He came to set free.
He came to restore and heal.

Let’s come back to the verse from the book of Joel.
God says “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten”
Restore. From the Hebrew verb שׁלם – salam.
in Hebrew it means :
to make peace with, to cause to be at peace, to live in peace
to be complete, be sound, be uninjured, to make safe, to make whole or good, restore, make compensation.

Has your heart been ravaged and destroyed by sin ? has it been eaten by the locusts ? Christ is come ! Christ is come on Earth, has found His way in your heart, your ravaged heart, and He was incarnate for you. To RESTORE. to make you new. to heal. to mend.
But yield yourself to the Lord.
He is near.
So much more nearer than the air your breathe !
He is everywhere.
I used to find much comfort in this; take a minute. sit down. breathe. Then, think. Christ is infinitely nearer than the air particles right in front of you. He is IN YOU.

Talk to Him.
“Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us” psalm 62:8
He is here. and He wants to restore. He desires to make you holy. so. Stand up. Do the mighty sign of the cross. take a deep deep breath and tell Him : “Jesus, I feel completely broken, wounded, ravaged. I need to start over. I need a new heart. A new spirit. Come. restore. heal. mend. make holy.”
You are His beloved daughter and how pleased He is to restore you. to make you Holy to Him. to crown you, clothe you in His glory.

Be brave. We stand on the same ground. Fear not. We all need to be healed and restored. This very minute, I too, sigh and cry for a new heart. a new spirit. He will hear us. He will have pity on us for we belong to Him. We are His beloved daughters. Precious. Beloved. Delighted in. Be brave, my dearest sister.

“It may be that in various parts of our lives we shall have to follow the path-possibly a difficult one-that leads from rebellion or resignation to consent […]
the most important thing in our lives is not so much what we can do as leaving room for what God can do. The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Jesus tells us. God’s love is infinitely more powerful than anything we can do by our own wisdom or our own strength. Yet one of the most essential conditions for God’s grace to act in our lives is saying yes to what we are and to the situations in which we find ourselves.
That is because God is “realistic”. His grace does not operate in our imaginings, ideals, or dreams. It works on reality, the specific, concrete elements of our lives. Even if the fabric of our everyday lives doesn’t look very glorious to us, only there can we be touched by God’s grace. The person God loves with the tenderness of a Father, the person he wants to touch and to transform with His love, is not the person we’d have liked to be or ought to be. It’s the person we are. God doesn’t love “ideal persons” or “virtual beings”. He loves actual, real people. He is not interested in saintly figures in stained glass windows, but in us sinners.” – Jacques Philippe

Art thou free, my dearest sister ?

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – St.Paul

“We will offer God our will, our reason, our mind, our whole being through the hands and the heart of the Blessed Virgin. Then our spirit will possess that precious freedom of soul, so far removed from tension, sadness, depression, constraint, and small-mindedness. We will sail the sea of abandonment, being freed from ourselves to attach ourselves to Him, the Infinite. —Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Malestroit ”

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A Jesus Prayer

Jesus, Thou who art Love beyond our comprehending, glory toThee Who dost sustain the universe by Thy power.
Jesus, Thou Who art the Way, the Truth, the Life I thank Thee for showing me the truth, in life-giving words. Jesus, Thou Who art Light beyond all light, I confess to Thee that I walk in darkness, the darkness of sin.
Jesus, Thou Who art final judge of all I confess to Thee that I have never been pierced by Thy love, as I should have been.
Jesus, Thou Who art Life giving and sweetest warmth, rekindle my frozen heart.
Jesus, Thou Who art garment of light, worn by the stars, clothe my nakedness.
Jesus, Thou who art all in all: purify my heart that I may see Thee.
Jesus, Thou Who art in all and beyond all, my God: show me Thy face and I shall be saved. Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.
—Archimandrite lerotheos Vlachos