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HOMILY: Walking in mindfulness - September 22, 2019
Readings: Galatians 5:16-24, Matthew 6:24-33
If one studies the choice of language in the scriptures enough, preferably in the Greek, one begins to see a language of journey and transformation. It is a way of life that takes us from where we were, leading us in Christ likeness in this life, towards the completion of all things in the world to come. The Christian faith is a journey in which Christ is the path, Christ is the door, and simultaneously the prize and completion of the redemptive work of the cross. Ours is a journey of restoration and healing, to restore the dignity of our humanity to its Edenic and former glory.
We undertake this journey not as one alone, but we walk together as the body of Christ, being lead by Christ towards the end of all things: the eschaton. In this journey we must always ask ourselves if we are indeed following Christ, or if we are following something else as unfortunate yet willing slaves to sin. Do we follow the Holy Spirit of God, or are we enticed instead by the spirit of this age. It is a constant struggle being waged within us; though, no one can serve two masters, as Christ tells us in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. The word translated here as master is the word κύριος, or Lord. So, do we follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and God, becoming slaves to righteousness? Or, do we succumb to the temptations of the Evil One, seeking the passions and pleasures of this life over the rewards of the next? It is an ever present tension in which we live, choosing between the immediate gratifications of this world, or the delayed promises of the next. We should prefer to live our lives in constant expectation of the world to come, where those likewise who have gone before us look forward with equal expectation towards the resurrection. What expectations can be found in the things of this world but loss, suffering, and anguish born from our attachment to them, and our eventual loss of them; for, they are fleeting and all is vanity.
In this journey, Saint Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit” so that we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Elsewhere in the scriptures we are told likewise to live in the world, but not of it. We are instructed to live in the world as citizens of the Kingdom of God, adopted as sons and daughters of God the Father almighty. We are exhorted to live as aliens and sojourners in this world. We walk by the spirit, passing through this world without any attachment to the things of this world. We live in the world, but do not follow nor participate in the spirit of the age in which we live. We live in the world, but we do not acquiesce to the vagaries of this age, for the spirit of any age will always and invariably lead to death. The spirit of an age is impermanent and changes from generation to generation; but, the Spirit of God is eternal. The spirit of God is everlasting. The spirit of God is Truth, and life.
So, what does it mean by use of the word “spirit?” The word translated here is πνεῦμα, which by extension and context connotes the heart and mind of God. So, the spirit is in essence the mindset that has come down to us from God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; however, there is also another word with a similar meaning, and that is φρόνημα. This is the Orthodox mindset in which we live and understand our day to day lives, a mindset rooted in Christ and the sacramental life and rhythm of the Church. So, we follow the heart and mind of God, exhibiting the heart and mind of God in this world and in our day to day lives. We know that we are doing this by those fruits which Saint Paul has listed for us in his letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is by these that we may know that we are following a right spirit within us.
The spirit of this age is known by the other list of bitter fruits also given in the same letter to the Galatians: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, and all things such as these. Many of these are easily made manifest in the world around us, for indeed we live in a fallen world, and we should have no participation with it. It would be better for the world to consume us, than to give in to such as these. Such is the life of a martyr.
There are many spirits for us to follow, but we can only be mindful of one. We cannot be of two minds. We cannot possess two hearts. We cannot take two paths, nor can we follow two masters leading us in opposite directions. We must be of one mind and one accord, both within ourselves and with all who surround us. For we rise together, but we fall alone. We must decide whether to be hot or cold, for a life of indecisive faith is lukewarm, and will lead to us being spit out of the mouth of the Holy One who spoke all things into existence.
We cannot hover indefinitely between the convictions of this world or those of the next. We cannot sit on the fence for the rest of our days. We cannot hold on to both lives, for we can only live one of them. We can only conform to one way or the other. We cannot - at the risk of sounding flippant - have our cake and eat it too. There is one Truth, one path, one way, and one spirit. God is not a God of many minds, so neither should we be likewise.
We are mindful of God and follow Him not for a reward of earthly things, but we follow Him for a reward of promise. For, we are promised no luxuries or comforts in this life, for indeed Christ had none. We are to pass through this world without any attachment to it. We are to have faith and trust in He who gave us life that all things - that which we receive, or those things which we lack - will be necessary to the salvation of ourselves and others. As our Gospel reading has exhorted to us today, we are not to be anxious about the things of this world,” for indeed the world has enough anxieties of its own. We are not to possess the world, nor are we to be possessed of the world. We are to be concerned with the things of God; for those things that are holy; for those things that are just; and for those things that are rooted in righteousness. Anything outside of this is superfluous vanity.
We must be mindful, developing an appropriate φρόνημα about our Orthodox faith. We must be mindful of our words; mindful of our actions; and mindful of that which we do before the watchful eyes of the world. We must be mindful of our thoughts, for as Elder Thaddeus has said, our thoughts determine our lives. Not least of these, we should be mindful of what spirit we follow, for there is only one Truth, but there are many spirits. There is only One way, but there are many roads that lead away from the present moment. There are many mindsets, but there is only one mind of God. We shall be known by the fruits that we bear, for we walk in the spirit, that we may have the spirit of God within us.
I close from an excerpt taken from Edler Thaddeus’ own writings, from a chapter titled “Repentance is a Change of Life:’
“Life on earth is manifested in our thoughts. Whatever our thoughts are occupied with , that reflects the kind of life we lead. If our thoughts are quiet and peaceful, kind and loving, there’s peace for us; and if they are negative, there’s disquiet and restlessness. We are small and helpless beings, and we must unceasingly ask our Heavenly Father for help in all things; we must pray to Him to give us strength and to give us of His Grace, the Divine energy that is present and works everywhere, most especially in those souls that have chosen to serve the Lord with their whole life, both in this world and in eternity. For God is peace; God is comfort and joy to all people, I therefore wish you peace and joy in the Lord.”
By the prayers of our holy fathers and mothers, Lord Jesus Christ our God have mercy upon us and save us
Homily: Be opened. - September 1, 2019
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One God. Amen
I would like to open with a reading from the Old Testament today. It is not one we have heard read today, but it is wholly relevant to what we have heard so far, and what I have to say.
From Isaiah chapter 35, beginning at verse 3:
3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
7 And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The whole of the Old Testament points towards forwards towards the messianic promise, points forwards towards Christ, but this particular verse is a direct prophecy of Christ which we hear partially fulfilled in our Gospel reading for today (Mark 7:31-37). In this reading we hear of the man who was deaf and dumb, as they say, who was brought to Christ by others to be healed. Christ pulled him to the side, stuck his fingers in his ears, spitting on his finger and touching the man’s tongue, he looked to the heavens and said one of the few obscure Aramaic words we hear in the Gospels: Ephphatha.
This word means to be opened. In the Greek, which is given along side the Aramaic, the word is dianoigō (διανοίγω), which specifically in this case means to be opened, but more generally used it refers to an opening of the heart; an opening of the mind and the understanding; to open one’s self to the sense of a thing. Yet, why did Christ find it necessary to speak this word as part of this act of healing? Could He not have just healed the man through the spirit? Could He not have just willed his healing into existence? Of course the answer is yes, but he does this because words have power. Words have the power to heal, and the power to destroy. Words have the power to build up and encourage, as well as tear down. Words are important. In fact, in the chapter preceding our Epistle reading for today, Saint Paul speaks at length about the gift of speaking in tongues and prophesying. What we say matters.
The Son of God spoke all of creation into existence, for indeed He is the Word of God. Christ drove out evil spirits with but a word. Saint James warns us of the dangers of the tongue and the words we speak, with Christ corroborating this in the Gospel of Matthew by warning us that “those things which proceed out of the mouth comes from the heart,” and these are what defile a man. Those that came to Christ in His ministry - the man with leprosy, the Centurion, the paralytic, and others - when asked what they needed, though God knew regardless of the request, they spoke their needs to Christ that they may be heard and met likewise. We pray so that our needs might be heard, rising before the saints and the throne of God like incense that they might be heard (Psalm 141:2, Revelations 8:4) Even Saint John of Kronstadt places an importance upon the words we speak into this world, exhorting that “man, in all his words, does not die. He is immortal in them, and they speak after his death.” So, if we should be judged by that which we say, then surely we should be mindful of that which we say, and what manner of words we bring into the world. Do we speak slander, or do we speak praise? Do we speak Truth, or babble on endlessly about the things of this world. Be mindful.
Christ spoke words of healing, because He is the Great Physician. Christ spoke words of Truth, because he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Christ calls each of us to be opened, so that we can be healed of our spiritual deafness, so that we may receive the Truth. The healing of the deaf man is a metaphor for all men. It can be taken as an analogy of the Christian life, speaking of those outside the Church in the wilderness (of the world) alluded to in Isaiah chapter 35.
As those few of you who have attended my classes may have learned by now, I filter my theological viewpoint and my entire basis of understanding the Truth through the understanding of the Church, for the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth (1 Tim 3:15). So, with that being said, the deaf man is every man standing outside the Church. He cannot receive the Truth. He cannot speak the truth because he does not know it. But, Christ calls each of us to be opened, but it is not an opening that can be forced. He wills each of us to be opened to the Truth, but we must first turn towards Christ, and do so by our own volition. All are called, but not all respond. Christ came for all mankind, but not all will receive Him. Christ speaks, but not all hear his words. He meets everyone where they are in life, but not all will experience Him. So, how can a blind man see the sun? He cannot see it, but he can feel it. How can a deaf man hear the words of truth? He cannot hear it, but he can see it, or experience it. The Truth must be incarnated into the world, becoming all things to all people, so that all spiritual infirmities may be overcome for the receiving of the Truth. We must bring the Truth to all men, so that man may know and accept it; turning towards Christ; turning towards the Church; turning towards the Great Physician and the Hospital for our souls, so that we may be healed of our spiritual infirmities..
Most of us started in the world, living for the world. We encountered the Truth and accepted it, turning towards Christ, and subsequently the Church. We repented of our sins. We knocked on the door of the Church by our act of confession, where the wounds of our souls were healed with the absolution of forgiveness. We put on the garment of baptism, sealed with the oil of Chrismation, and were allowed into the Church, the body of Christ. We approached the Lord’s table to partake of the Holy Mysteries, becoming one with the Truth. We are now a living stone of the Church, the body of Christ. Our eyes are opened. Our ears are unstopped. Our tongues are loosed. It is now our responsibility to share this Truth we have received to those who would receive it. In word and in deed we must incarnate Christ in the world, for this is the way of Holiness mentioned in Isaiah chapter 35, and this is what we are called to be. We must preach the Gospel message to all mankind in both word and in deed; to all the spiritually deaf and blind who have yet to turn towards Christ amidst their clinging to the things of this world
Yet, what is the Truth? What is this Gospel message that we are so inclined to declare unto the world? We find the answer to this in our Epistle reading for today (1 Cor. 15:1-10). We hear Saint Paul making dogmatic statements which we are so familiar with, and hear every Sunday in the words of the Nicene Creed:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
We preach the resurrected Christ, for He is Risen! This is the pivotal and most important act of Christ’s ministry on earth. Even though Pascha is behind us, it is also simultaneously ever before us in the sacramental rhythm of the Church, and we must always remember the Risen Christ. We must always be willing to proclaim that He is risen, and do so with every fiber of our being, every moment of our daily lives in all that we say and do. He is risen, he who endured the death of the cross for all men, to open the gates of paradise. He is life because He is risen, trampling down death by death! He is Risen because He is God incarnate in the flesh, he who condescended to become one of us, that we may be able to become like him. If Christ had never risen from the grave, then we should never leave it. If Christ had never risen, then death would never have been defeated. If Christ had never risen, then his death upon the cross would have been in vain, and our entire Christian life an empty promise.
He died so that we may live in the presence of God. We live, so that others may die to this world and all that it may bring. We all die to the world so that we may all live in Christ. So let us speak the truth so that it may be heard. Let us incarnate the Truth, so that the Truth may be experienced; the truth may be seen; the truth may be felt; and the truth may be known. By the truth may all ears be opened, that all men may hear and know the Truth of the risen Christ, and turn towards Him to be healed of their infirmities of spirit, and to be healed of infirmities of mind, body, and soul. You were once deaf, but now you can hear. You were once mute, but now your mouth is opened to proclaim the truth. So then, we must ask ourselves, why aren’t we?
By the prayers of our holy Fathers and Mothers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.
Truth and Love - August 24th, 2019
Truth does not change. Truth is one just as God is one, for truth is a person: Jesus Christ. We are living stones that constitute the church, which is the body of Jesus Christ, He who is the truth. When we start building the Church with something other than the truth, as something other than ourselves founded in truth and holiness, then the church clearly becomes something other than the Truth. The Church is the Pillar and Foundation of that Truth, so it must embody that Truth in both word and deed; in both practice and praxis of faith; in both her prayers and her sacraments; in both beauty and holiness; in both purity and chastity of mind and body.
Truth is rigid and unchanging, without deformity of word or character. Yet, the means by which truth is conveyed, taught, expressed and known, is through the unending and unquenchable fire of God’s love. It is in this crucible of love, of which we are all partakers and participants of, that the coldness of this world melts away; the chaff of the wheat is burned to naught; the wax is softened and we are molded to the truth like potters clay. It is in love that truth is revealed, that truth takes shape in us, and that truth is known; for, God is love.
We are conformed to the Truth, molded in love. Once truth has taken shape within us, and once we have become molded to it become and an incarnation of Truth, it is by the crucibles of this world that we are tried, tested, formed, and refined. The potter’s clay is hardened into its new shape. Like in a refiner’s fire we are purified. We shall all become vessels of Truth, those who allow themselves to be subject to the fires of God’s love.
Everyone loves Truth when it is revealed about the world around them, but no one loves Truth when it is revealed about themselves. Likewise, everyone wants love to be given to them, but because love requires sacrifice on both sides, no one wants to give it in return. So, in this understanding, conformity to the truth requires sacrifice, which is perhaps why so many work so hard to make concessions with the truth, so that they may conform the truth to themselves instead. In the end, this is not love, but a hatred of the Truth, a hatred of Christ, for He is the Truth.
Homily - She was faithful: Mary Magdalene
"Those who are forgiven much, loves much." This is a lesson heard in the latter part of our Gospel reading for today (Luke 7:36-50), and it is fitting that we should receive them on this day. In my humble opinion, few in the scriptures exemplifies these words, than that of Mary Magdalene, whose feast day we celebrate today. She is a woman who bears many titles or cognomens within the Church. She is one of the eight Myrrh Bearing Women whom the Church also celebrates. She is the first to see the risen Christ, going to the tomb to anoint His body in a final act of love and devotion, only to find that He was not there. She is the first to preach the risen Christ, preached first to the Apostles, and is likely the first person ever to utter those glorious words we say so joyously each year: He is risen! She proclaimed to the Apostles, “I have seen the Lord,” and so she is the Apostle to the Apostles because she preached to them the risen Christ. She is equal to the Apostles for her ministry and aid to not only to the apostles, but to the other women in the temple, the women in a society where women are often overlooked.
Who is this woman? Who is Mary Magdalene? She was born of the town Magdala, along the shore of Lake Gennesaret, of the tribe of Issachar. Tradition informs us that she was young and pretty, but led a sinful life wherein she was tormented by seven evil spirits - from which she was healed and released from their torment, and made whole by our Lord Jesus Christ. From this point forward she followed Christ in His ministry, and as the following chapter attests, she ministers to Christ (and the apostles) out of her own resources, leading us to believe that Mary was a woman of wealth. We know little else about her, yet she is mentioned twelve times in the Gospels, which turns out to be more occasions than most of the apostles are mentioned. It also tells us that she was likely vital to the ministry of Christ, and that she was important in the eyes of the evangelists.
She performed no great works. No miracles are attributed to her in the Gospels. She was a woman of seemingly low stature in the bigger picture of the ministry of Christ. Even at the foot of the cross, when the Evangelists detail those that were standing there, listing the myriad women followers of Christ, all of them mention her first. This indicates that she stood out from the other women who followed Christ. Some would attest she stood out because of her beauty. I agree with this in part, but not because of any worldly beauty, for indeed she carried a true beauty, a beauty which is only found in holiness. She stood out from the rest because of her great faith in Christ our God.
Faith. Hebrews Chapter 11 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Put in another way, our faith is the underlying reality of our lives, those things we do serving to prove that which we believe by incarnating Christ into the world. The two words commonly translated as faith in the scriptures are Πίστις and πιστεύω. One is a noun, and the other is a verb. One lends the idea that one becomes their faith, they become the living embodiment of that which they believe. The other presents faith as that which we do, that our faith is made evident by word and deed in our day to day lives. Perhaps a “better” translation would be “faithing.” For ours is not a faith of mind or mental ascent alone, but ours is a faith of action. We are to incarnate Christ into this world. The Church is to incarnate Christ into this world.
So, Mary Magdalene had faith not because she believed in her mind, or believed because she saw Christ in his ministry, but it is said she had faith because she became what she believed. She had faith, for when the lord was praised, lauded, and celebrated by the people, she was with him. It is easy to have faith in such times. She had faith, for when the teachings became difficult, or the way became too hard, she stayed by His side when others left him. She had faith, for when Christ was accused and the Apostles scattered, she stayed near him, she did not abandon Him. She had faith when Christ was accused to die, and marched with Him among the weeping women on the way to his crucifixion. She had faith, and she was there when Christ died, standing with His All-Pure and most holy mother. She had faith, and she was still there when Christ was laid in the tomb. She had faith, that even in His death, she went to attend to Him one last time, even though by doing so she would gain nothing in this world, but in doing so she gained Christ. In gaining Christ, she gained the whole world.
Her faith is a shining example for us all. She was not called to magnificent works, but simply to be faithful to him in in our day to day lives whatever circumstances she faced. We all have reason to love Christ, for we have all been healed of infirmities we ourselves have inflicted upon our very Souls. Mary knew that her life was not her own, owing her entire life to the One who healed her, and supporting Christ and the apostles in their ministry. It was her day to day devotion and her seemingly small acts of faith and love - staying with Christ regardless of the temperament of the times - that made her worthy to be the first to proclaim the resurrected Christ. She was faithful in even the smallest things, and for her faith she was given all things. It is by her example of humility that we should not set aside or dismiss the great importance of even those small opportunities in our own lives for serving Christ, making manifest His love into the world. For, our lives are not a series of grand moments and encounters, or great adventures and fairy tale endings, but more often than not our lives are a pattern of laborious responsibilities and repititious routines we carry out from day to day. So, while grand gestures and opportunities of faith are of benefit in the right context, if we are not faithful to Christ with even the smallest occasions in our lives to do so, if we are not willing to be faithful to him in even the most unremarkable of ways, then we cannot say that we truly offer up our lives to Christ. For, let us not forget the words of Christ in Luke chapter 16: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
Mary Magdalene was faithful in all things, she was faithful in the smallest things, and she was faithful in the most unremarkable things. While she accomplished no remarkable deeds in scripture, she is remarkable and great because of the faith she had in Christ our God. When Christ ascended to sit at the right hand of God the Father, she continued in that faith.
Holy Tradition testifies that Mary departed from Jerusalem with the Apostles to preach to the ends of the earth. Mary went to preach in Rome. She proclaimed the Christ and uplifted and exhorted the people with the teachings of Christ. There were of course many who did not accept her words about the risen Christ, but she repeated those words she preached to the Apostles: "I have seen the Lord!" This is the message she carried across the land of Italy.
Tradition also reveals to us that Mary Magdalene visited the Roman Emperor Tiberius, proclaiming to him the resurrection of Christ. With this she brought a red egg as a symbol of the resurrection, giving it to him with these words: “Christ is Risen!” She then told the Emperor of the man unjustly condemned in his province of Judea, the Galilean named Jesus; who was a holy man and a miracle worker; who was powerful before God and all mankind; who was executed at the instigation of the Jewish authorities, and confirmed by his appointed procurator Pontius Pilate. She repeated to him the words of the Apostles, stating how our life is not found in the things of this world, but in the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. She audaciously spoke truth to power, and so should we do likewise.
It is from this encounter that we receive our tradition of giving one another those red paschal eggs on the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, it is of interest to note, that in a particular ancient Greek manuscript, written on parchment, kept in the monastery library of Saint Athanasius near Thessalonica, is a prayer read on the day of Holy Pascha for the blessing of eggs and cheese. In it is indicated that the igumen (ἡγούμενος, head of the monastery) in passing out the blessed eggs says to the brethren: “Thus have we received from the holy Fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy Apostles, therefore the holy Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering.” It is a practice we still honor and maintain in the Church today.
After her laboring in Rome had been completed, and already bent with old age, she moved to Ephesus where Saint John the Theologian was continuing his work, and she joined him in the preaching of the Holy Gospel to the world. It is here that she reposed in her earthly life and was buried.
Saint Mary Magdalene is a precious example of faith in action; a compelling example of faith in life in all things both big and small. She shows us that we do not have to be miracle workers; we not have to be great theologians; we do not have to be great intellectuals; and we do not have to be bishops, priests and deacons to make a tremendous impact in the life of the Church, or in the world in which she lives. We must only be faithful with what we have been given. We must be faithful with our whole being and in all things remarkable and unremarkable, and in so doing we will be the brightest of lights shining into the darkness of this world. We make known our faith by what we do in all things, and we show our love of Christ in our obedience to his word and will, doing so when the times are good, or in the face of death. Truth is unchanging. Truth is unwavering. Truth is a person, and that person is Jesus Christ. May we never waver and turn away from the Truth, and remain by his side just as Mary the Magdalene did, and still is.
Church: Hospital or Hospice? - July 20, 2019
The idea of the Church as a hospital for our souls is nothing new. This was an ideation voiced by Saint John Chrysostom; an idea embodied by Saint Basil the Great; an idea echoed all throughout the writings of the Holy Fathers of our faith:
"For indeed the school of the Church is an admirable surgery - a surgery, not for bodies, but for souls. For it is spiritual, and sets right, not fleshly wounds, but errors of the mind, and of these errors and wounds the medicine is the word.”
~Saint John Chrysostom.
The idea and understanding of the Church as hospital for the soul requires a proper understanding of our humanity, but also a proper understanding of the Church. Christ is the great physician, He who came to heal the sick, the sinner, the ill and infirmed. The Church, as the body of Christ, is by extension the very Hospital of our Great Physician, Jesus Christ. The priests work as her doctors and administers of medicine, the healing salve of confession applied to the wounds of sin which we have inflicted upon ourselves, and the Eucharist as food for the soul. Towards this end, the theology of the Church is a therapeutic science. As the doctor cannot know what remedies to apply to what wounds without proper education and training, neither can the priest do likewise to the myriad spiritual wounds of sin. The Priest or spiritual director is no different in this, in the work of diagnosing those wounds, identifying the illnesses that ail us, so that the priest may apply the correct remedy. One cannot find the wounds and identify the illnesses if he does not know what to look for. The goal is holiness (wholeness) and is the direct result of our having submitted in all humility to a life of repentance, a life to which we are directed by the loving guidance of a spiritual director.
The Church is ultimately a part of the medicine for the whole human being, and is preoccupied with the fate of human beings. A humanity plagued by sinfulness, the passions of the flesh, and destructive behaviors, is an overall abnormal state of existence. The end to which all humans must go to, death, is an unnatural state from the created order, separating body from spirit. Through Christ we are given a way to purification, cleansed of our sins by repentance, confession, baptism, and continued participation in the divine nature of God, but he has also conquered death by death, that in the resurrection we may be reunited soul with body, and return to that state in which we were created, and were always intended to exist.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This idea of Church has all but disappeared among much of the various groupings of mainline Christianity. No longer are people healed and prepared for their encounter with God. The Sacraments are gone. The doctors have been evicted. This fleshly sentiment of individuality identity taking precedent over our personhood, over the restoration of our humanity in the image and likeness of God, has all but destroyed the Christian faith. No longer are people conforming to the healing prescriptions of the Church, recognizing that we are wounded; recognizing that we are sick and fallen in our human nature; recognizing that we are all sinners. Instead, people approach God with their open wounds, because "it's ok, I am forgiven." Their minds never get beyond the Cross, that Christ died for the sins of all mankind, and never get to the joyousness that lies behind it. The Church has become a courtroom in some respects, a place of worship where people in wait of judgement. In other respects, instead of a hospital, it has become a hospice, where people turn towards the cross and simply wait to die. They are made to feel better through emotional appeals, like an opiate for the terminally ill to ease the pain. They are enraptured by the words they are given, not hearing the words of the Doctors who have gone before them, the Great Physician who died for them:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
~ Matthew 3:2
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
~ James 5:16
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."
~ Mark 16:17
“Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many."
~ Mark 14:22-25
These directives, these prescriptions given to us are not unique to the scriptures, but are echoed through the centuries and millennia of Christians who have gone before us. The Historical witness of the Christian faith paints a very clear picture as to the soul and purpose of the divine-human institution of the Church. Though, one has to enter the doors first before healing can occur.
We must identify those wounds we have inflicted upon ourselves (repent). We just receive the salve of healing, applied to those very would by our confession before God (confession). We are then baptized, cleansed of the stain of this world, by the very waters of creation the lord sanctified for us by virtue of his own baptism in the Jordan. We are then Chrismated to seal the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Properly adorned in the garments of righteousness, we approach the Lord's table to receive that precious and eternal life giving medicine of the Eucharist.
Much of mainline and consumer Christianity simply tells and teaches us how to die. The pain of our wounds is lessened, but the wounds in many cases are not healed. It is a passivity of faith that accepts there is a cure, but then does nothing to receive it. Yet, the Christian faith is a faith of action, and should tell us how to live. The Church tells us how to live in this life and the next. The entirety of this life should be a preparation for life in the kingdom of heaven, for it is indeed at hand. It is with us now, it is among us, because we as the Church should be living our lives to incarnate Christ into the world. We do not come to Church to prepare to die as a hospice, but we come to Church as a Hospital, that we may be healed and made whole for a life eternal in Jesus Christ.
“Virtues exist in us also by nature, and the soul has affinity with them not by education, but by nature herself. We do not need lessons to hate illness, but by ourselves we repel what afflicts us, the soul has no need of a master to teach us to avoid vice. Now all vice is sickness of soul as virtue is its health.”
~ Saint Basil the Great.
Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.