Monday, December 2, 2013

Teaching the Faith through Beauty

Pope Francis in his first encyclical had these words to say about teaching the faith:

Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the "way of beauty" (via pulchritudinis). Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus. This has nothing to do with fostering an aesthetic relativism which would downplay the inseparable bond between truth, goodness and beauty, but rather a renewed esteem for beauty as a means of touching the human heart and enabling the truth and goodness of the Risen Christ to radiate within it. If, as Saint Augustine says, we love only that which is beautiful, the incarnate Son, as the revelation of infinite beauty, is supremely lovable and draws us to himself with bonds of love. (167)**   

I wonder how well we relate the Christian life when we lead our catechetical events (Baptism prep, Confirmation, and Marriage Prep), as the beautiful life.  I see the Way of Beauty as the way of Christ.  Thus we live the Christian life as the way of embracing beautiful humanity revealed in Christ.  We endure the trials and tribulations of broken humanity (to endure the cross) in order to live the beautiful life of Christ in us, and in Him to be raised (here and then) to the glory of His beautiful presence.   

Something to ponder.  Brian+


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christianity is Life

“All of our clothes, sooner or later, will grow old and tear. But our spiritual clothing, which are the virtues: love, faith, hope, endurance, meekness, humility – with which we clothe ourselves spiritually, with which we show ourselves as Christians. For, being Christian is not only our declarative statement: I am a Christian. Or as is said today: I celebrate my Slava. One wishes to prove with such statements that they’re Christian. It is proof only in words. Christianity is life, brothers and sisters, live according to Christ, life according to the Gospel”
His Holiness Serbian Patriarch +Irinej

From Again and Again

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To Behold the Beauty

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. 
C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

"To find the place where all beauty came from."  How magnificent a thought.  The pursuit of beauty.  How wonderful a quest to shape the goals of life.

The Psalmist declares:

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
  (Psalm 27.4)

St. Paul sets forth the quest in saying: 

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.  Philippians 4.8

A lovely prayer in the BCP for teachers asks the LORD to help teachers to form this pursuit in the lives of children:

GRANT, we beseech thee, O heavenly Father,
to all who teach in our schools, the spirit of
wisdom and grace, that they may lead their pupils
to reverence truth, desire goodness, and rejoice
in beauty
; so that all may come to know and
worship thee, the giver of all that is good;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
.   (For Teachers in Schools - BCP)

And again in the Thanksgiving prayer found in the Family Prayer section of the BCP.

O MOST merciful Father, we humbly thank
thee for all thy gifts so freely bestowed upon
us. For life and health and safety, for power to
work and leisure to rest, for all that is beautiful
in creation and in the lives of men
, we praise and
magnify thy holy Name. But, above all, we thank
thee for our spiritual mercies in Christ Jesus our
Lord, for the means of grace, and for the hope of
glory. Fill our hearts with all joy and peace in
believing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Finally, from St. Peter, (though speaking about the desirable inner character of a woman, the substance of the thought is applicable to all ):

'...the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.'  (1 Peter 3.4)

Let us pursue the beauty that IS God, and FROM God, and ponder the beauty of God in each other.

In Christ,  Brian+

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spirit of Discernment

I beseech you in the name of Jesus the Christ that God may give you the spirit of discernment…. Prepare yourselves while you have [heavenly] intercessors to pray to God for your salvation, that He may pour into your hearts that fire which Jesus came to send upon the earth (Luke 12:49), that you may be able to exercise your hearts and senses, to know how to discern the good from the bad, the right from the left, reality from unreality…. Truly, my beloved, you know that when there is a fair wind, the ship’s captain boasts; but it is in the time of violent adverse winds that every skilled captain is revealed. (Letter III)
~St Anthony the Great

From Christ in our Midst

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Self-esteem Revisited

“The passion of self-esteem is a three-pronged barb heated and forged by the demons out of vanity, presumption and arrogance. Yet those who dwell under the protection of the God of heaven (cf. Ps. 90.1) detect it easily and shatter its prongs, for through their humility they rise above such vices and find repose in the tree of life.”
Nikitas Stithatos, “The Practice of the Virtues,” # 80, The Philokalia, Vol. 4  (From Christ is in our Midst)

It would seem to Mr. Stithatos that self-esteem whether positive or poor, founders on its foundation of vice.  (pride or despair).  I believe he is correct.  May we always be found in Christ, to flee from sin in all its subtle forms, and pursue Him in all His humility.  Thus will the fruit of the Spirit be manifested in us.

LORD have mercy,   Brian+

Thursday, July 25, 2013

So Partake of the Eucharist

“…if we really yearn for eternal life, if we long to have the provider of immortality within ourselves, let us not abstain from the Eucharist like some of the more negligent, nor let us provide the devil in the depths of his cunning with a trap and a snare for us in the form of a pernicious kind of reverence. ‘Yes, indeed,’ someone might say. ‘But it is written: “Anyone who eats of the bread and drinks of the cup unworthily, eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (cf. I Cor. 11:29). I have examined myself and I see that I am not worthy.’ But then when will you be worthy? My response would be: ‘When will you present yourself to Christ? If you are always going to be afraid of falling, you will never cease falling – “For who can discern his faults,” as the holy Psalmist says (Ps. 18:12 LXX) – and you will end up totally bereft of a share in saving sanctification.’ Make up your mind, then, to lead a more devout life in conformity with the law, and so partake of the Eucharist in the conviction that it dispels not only death but even the diseases that are in us (cf. I Cor. 11:30). For when Christ has come to be within us he lulls to sleep the law that rages in the members of flesh. He rekindles our reverence towards God, while simultaneously causing the passions to atrophy. He does not reckon our faults against us. Instead, He binds up that which has been wounded, he raises that which has fallen, as a good shepherd who has laid down His life for the sheep (Ez. 34:16; Jn. 10:11).”
~St. Cyril of Alexandria (Cyril of Alexandria: The Early Church Fathers by Norman Russell, Commentary on John 6:56

Thanks to Christ is in our Midst

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Prayer of St. Anselm

A Prayer from Anselm of Canterbury
O my God teach my heart where and how to seek you,
where and how to find you…

You are my God and you are my All and I have never seen you.
You have made me and remade me,
You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
Still I do not know you…

I have not yet done that for which I was made….
Teach me to seek you…

I cannot seek you unless you teach me
or find you unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Needs of the Soul

"The needs of the soul are different. The joys of the soul are different from the joys of the body. The body is easily managed, not the soul. If you have money and enter a big store, the body is all set. But what can you find in a, what do you call those big stores, yes, a supermarket, for your soul? The soul needs other things. The soul has need of peace, quiet, communion with God. To sustain the body, you need silver and daily bread. To sustain the soul, divine talents and heavenly Bread are needed. "

"Do not envy people that have money, comforts, fame and power, but rather those who live with virtue, reason and piety."
                                                                       Elder Paisios


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We Must Again Be Christians

"We must again be Christians.  It is futile, in fact it is precisely absurd, to speak of reforming society, of changing the path of history, of emerging into an age beyond absurdity, if we have not Christ in our hearts; and if we do have Christ in our hearts, nothing else matters."

- Fr. Seraphim Rose, Nihilism, pg. 121

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Virtuous Life - It's Not Easy

Do not say that it is impossible to achieve a virtuous life, but say that it is not easy. Those who have achieved the virtuous life find it is not easy to maintain. Those who are devout, and whose intellect enjoys the love of God, take part in the life of virtue. The unspiritual intellect, however, is concerned with material things and wavers back and forth, producing both good and evil thoughts. It does this because it is changeable by nature and directed towards material things. But the intellect that enjoys the love of God punishes the evil which arises on its own through human laziness.
~St Anthony the Great

Thanks to Christ in Our Midst

Friday, April 5, 2013

Keep Life Simple

People today have made their lives difficult, because they are not satisfied with a few things, but are constantly chasing after more and more material goods. But those who would like to live a genuine spiritual life must first of all be satisfied with a few things. When their life is simplified, without too many concerns and nuisances, not only will they be liberated from the worldly spirit, they will also have plenty of time available for spiritual things. Otherwise they will tire themselves out by trying to follow the fashion of the times; they will lose their serenity and will gain only great anxiety." 
Elder Paisios

From the blog "Orthodox Way of Life" 

Peace,  Brian+

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Prayer before Communion

Almighty and everlasting God, Behold we approach the sacrament of the passion of Thy only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  As sick, we come to the physician of life; as unclean to the fountain of mercy; as blind, to the light of eternal splendor; as needy, to the Lord of heaven and earth.  We pray Thee of Thine infinite mercy to heal our sickness, to wash our foulness, to lighten our darkness, and to enrich our poverty; that receiving the Body and Blood of Thy dear Son, we may be incorporated into His mystical body, and ever be reckoned among his members; who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth One God, world without end.  AMEN

I do not know where I first came across this wonderful prayer, but it has been part of my preparations for Holy Communion for several years.

Blessings,  Brian+

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Benefits of Solitude


To go in search of solitude, even for a short time, will make a difference. It is so important in spiritual growth.  You can throw out all other  kinds of discipline as long as you 'stay in you cell' (stay with yourself).  ...The ancient wisdom is to stay in your cell and it will teach you everything ... The hermit living in the desert is free from a threefold strife: the strifes of eyes, ears and tongues.  One strife alone remains, the strife of the heart... In solitude it is the heart which comes to the top, with its innate discord;  sold to sin (Rom 7:14), but already indwelt by God and the prayer of the Holy Spirit But it is sin which in solitary prayer comes first to the surface.  Daunting, overwhelming....Solitude sets me off from everything and takes me back to my own nothingness... Every superficial prop, every distraction, has gone... A person stands naked and defenseless before God, that is to say, in that poverty and weakness which are his only asset,  Before solitude brings me to the encounter with God, it shows me my own limitations and insignificance... I uncover in myself sin and frailty... The effect of solitude gives release from many false ideas and illusions.  It teaches how to be an ordinary human being , frail and in need of help... It is in the struggle with sin and evil that God intervenes  to strengthen the solitary... and here one begins to find one's true heart... This solitude is by turns wilderness and paradise, the tomb of sin and the womb of the new world, the Passover of Jesus.
                                                        Andre Louf  Teach Us To Pray

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Time is Always Right

  Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
    They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
    “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
    The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
    It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.
    It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth.
    Let him sit alone and keep silent,
Because God has laid it on him;
    Let him put his mouth in the dust—
There may yet be hope.
                         Lamentations 3.22-29 The Holy Bible, New King James Version

New Every Morning by John Keble

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If, on our daily course, our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see;
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.

We need not bid, for cloistered cell,
Our neighbor and our words farewell,
Nor strive to find ourselves too high
For sinful man beneath the sky.

The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

Seek we no more; content with these,
Let present rapture, comfort, ease—
As heaven shall bid them, come and go:
The secret this of rest below.

Only, O Lord, in Thy dear love,
Fit us for perfect rest above,
And help us, this and every day,
To live more nearly as we pray.

Have a blessed NEW day!   Brian+

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent is a Work of Love: Forgiveness and Repentance

Forgiveness and repentance: this is the joyful work of our Lenten journey.  Just before the Lenten Season The Collect for Quinquagesima reminds us of "the most excellent gift of charity (love):

O LORD, who hast taught us that all our
doings without charity are nothing worth:
Send thy Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts
that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond
of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever
liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant
this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.

We must never lose this 'goal set before us,' this goal of love, during the Lenten call to repentance and forgiveness.  

And it is WORK!!

Only by confronting our bitterness and resentment, and finding forgiveness for those who have hurt us, can we be free from the rage that binds us in despair. Repentance is not about beating ourselves up for our errors and feeling guilty; that is a sin in and of itself! Guilt keeps us entombed in self-pity. All sin is some form of self-centeredness, selfishness. Repentance is the transformation of our minds and hearts as we turn away from our sin, and turn to God, and to one another. Repentance means to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean to justify someone’s sin against us. When we resent and hold a grudge, we objectify the person who hurt us according to their action, and erect a barrier between us and them. And, we continue to beat ourselves up with their sin. To forgive means to overcome that barrier, and see that there is a person who, just like us, is hurt and broken, and to overlook the sin and embrace him or her in love. When we live in a state of repentance and reconciliation, we live in a communion of love, and overcome all the barriers that prevented us from fulfilling our own personhood.    Metropolitan Jonah of Washington

I suppose that one might say Forgiveness and Repentance is love for it is directed towards the Lord and neighbour.  Our love without it, is worth little if even nothing.

Have a great work day! and have a blessed love directed Lent,

Pray for me, Lord have mercy,  Brian

Thanks to Salt of the Earth for the quote.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Repentance Never Ends

“People have lost the feeling that they need to repent,” he said, and it grieved him. They commit sin and their conscience doesn’t bother them. There’s never-ending work to be done on ourselves. Repentance never ends, just like a wood carving someone can work on his whole life, with a magnifying glass. If a person doesn’t start working on himself, the devil will find work for him to do, and he’ll concern himself with other people’s lives. We have to acquire spiritual sensitivity. A Christian has to be able to see the passions that he has inside him, to repent for them and not to forget about them. People have put a lid on their conscience, and they end up in a state where they’ve got nothing and they’re never happy. When something happens, we don’t need to beat ourselves up over it – but let’s deal with it. When I’d see one of my sins, I’d be happy, because a wound had been revealed so I could treat it.

~Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos 

Thanks to Christ in Our Midst