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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Journey’ Category

We are in the Paschal season – the time between Christ’s triumphant resurrection and Pentecost.  It is fitting to remember what occurred during this time among the apostles and the disciples of Christ.  My thanks to Handmaid Leah for posting this quote on her blog, Christ is in Our Midst!

“What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands—We proclaim now to you” (1 St. John 1:1).

Behold, such is the apostolic preaching! The apostles do not speak as worldly sages, nor like philosophers and even less as theoreticians who make suppositions about something in order to discover something. The apostles speak about things which they have not sought but which unexpectedly surrounded them; about the fact which they did not discover but, so to speak, unexpectedly found them and seized them. They did not occupy themselves with spiritual researches nor have they studied psychology, neither did they, much less, occupy themselves with spiritism. Their occupation was fishing – one totally experiential physical occupation. While they were fishing, the God-Man [Jesus] appeared to them and cautiously and slowly introduced them to a new vocation in the service of Himself. At first, they did not believe Him but they, still more cautiously and slowly with fear and hesitation and much wavering, came toward Him and recognized Him. Until the apostles saw Him many times with their own eyes and until they discussed Him many times among themselves and, until they felt Him with their own hands, their experienced fact is supernatural but their method of recognizing this fact is thoroughly sensory and positively learned. Not even one contemporary scholar would be able to use a more positive method to know Christ. The apostles saw not only one miracle but numerous miracles. They heard not only one lesson but many lessons which could not be contained in numerous books. They saw the resurrected Lord for forty days; they walked with Him, they conversed with Him, they ate with Him, and they touched Him. In a word: they personally and first handedly had thousands of wondrous facts by which they learned and confirmed one great fact, i.e., that Christ is the God-Man, the Son of the Living God, the Man-loving Savior of mankind and the All-Powerful Judge of the living and the dead.

O Resurrected Lord confirm us in the faith and ardor of Your Holy Apostles.

~St Nikolai Velimirovic

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As iron, or lead, or gold, or silver, when cast into the fire is freed from that hard consistency which is natural to it, being changed into softness, and so long as it continues in the fire, is still dissolved from its native hardness — after the same manner the soul that has renounced the world, and fixed its desires only upon the Lord, and has received that heavenly fire of the Godhead, and of the love of the Spirit, is disentangled from all love of the world, and set free from all the corruption of the affections; it turns all things out of itself, and is changed from the hardness of sin, and melted down in a fervent and unspeakable love for that heavenly Bridegroom alone, whom it has received.

– St. Macarius of Egypt

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Christ did not die instead of us, so that we would not have to die. He died for us, so that we could die with Him, and in dying with Him, have life. His is the only death that leads to life. Our death, our dying to sin, apart from His, does not lead to life. But in Baptism, Jesus draws us into His own dying (Rom. 6:3). This dying with Christ in order to rise with Him is what we Orthodox mean by askesis.

–Father Anthony Coniaris

Thank you to A Desert Seeker for introducing me to this quote on his blogsite.

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The joy at the dramatic return of the younger son in no way means that the elder son was less loved, less appreciated, less favored. The father does not compare the two sons. He loves them both with a complete love and expresses that love according to their individual journeys. He knows them both intimately. He understands their highly unique gifts and shortcomings. He sees with love the passion of his younger son, even when it is not regulated by obedience. With the same love, he sees the obedience of the elder son, even when it is not vitalized by passion. With the younger son there are no thoughts of better or worse, more or less, just as there are no measuring sticks with the elder son. The father responds to both according to their uniqueness.  The return of the younger son makes him call for a joyful celebration. The return of the elder son makes him extend an invitation to full participation in that joy.

“In the house of my father there are many places to live,” Jesus says. Each child of God has there his or her unique place, all of them places of God. I have to let go of all comparison, all rivalry and competition, and surrender to the Father’s love. This requires a leap of faith because I have little experience of non-comparing love and do not know the healing power of such a love. As long as I stay out in the darkness, I can only remain in the resentful complaint that results from my comparisons. Outside of the light, my younger brother seems to be more loved by the Father than I; in fact, outside of the light, I cannot even see him as my brother.

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri J.M. Nouwen

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I have been rereading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen.  It is a marvelous discussion and analysis of the parable told by Jesus while at the same time using Rembrandt’s famous painting of the same name.  As Nouwen tells the tale of the  younger son who demanded his inheritance, left home, and foolishly squandered it all, he considers the true meaning of “leaving home.”

Leaving home is, then, much more than an historical event bound to time and place. It is a denial of the spiritual reality that I belong to God with every part of my being, that God holds me safe in an eternal embrace, that I am indeed carved in the palms of God’s hands and hidden in their shadows. Leaving home means ignoring the truth that God has “fashioned me in secret, moulded me in the depths of the earth and knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home and must look far and wide to find one.

It is easy for us to think, “Well, I can’t identify with the prodigal son, because I never did that.”  But we need to think beyond the external facts. Consider Nouwen’s verbs:

  • denial of the spiritual reality that I belong to God
  • ignoring the truth that God has created me
  • living as though I have no home and must look for another

Which of us can say these aren’t daily struggles? The battle is great and constant. God have mercy!

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If you glimpse how grand God’s love is, you realize that the question is not who’s in and who’s out, but who knows this love and who doesn’t. The whole human race is in the fold of God’s love. What Christians believe is that we have been privileged to see the depth and breadth of that revealed love of salvation in a one-of-a-kind way. And it’s our duty to tell that story as generously and imaginatively and energetically as we can. –

– from “Who’s In, Who’s Out?” in The Orthodox Light, October 2009, by the Very Rev. Archimandrite Ambrose Bitziadis-Bowers

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There is an art to fishing, and Jesus demonstrated the nuances of that skill when He called Peter and Andrew to follow Him.  John Chrysostom (Matthew, homily 14) explains…

“And walking by the sea of Galilee, He saw two brethren, Simon that was surnamed Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers.  And He says unto them, ‘Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  And they left their nets, and followed Him.”  (Matthew 4:18-19)

And yet John says that they were called in another manner.  Whence it is evident that this was a second call; and from many things one may perceive this.  For there it is said, that they came to Him when John was not yet cast into prison; but here, after he was in confinement. And there Andrew calls Peter, but here Jesus calls both.  And John says, Jesus seeing Simon coming, says, You are Simon, the Son of Jona, you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone. (John 1:42)

But Matthew says that he was already called by that name; for his words are, Seeing Simon that was called Peter. And from the place whence they were called, and from many other things, one may perceive this; and from their ready obedience, and abandonment of all. For now they were well instructed beforehand. Thus, in the other case, Andrew is seen coming into His house, and hearing many things; but here, having heard one bare word, they followed immediately. Since neither was it unnatural for them to follow Him at the beginning, and then leave Him again and return anew to their own craft, when they saw both John thrown into prison, and Himself departing. Accordingly you see that He finds them actually fishing. But He neither forbad them at the first when minded to withdraw, nor having withdrawn themselves, did He let them go altogether; but He gave way when they started aside from Him, and comes again to win them back; which kind of thing is the great point in fishing.

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