The Creed — The Symbol of Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11.1)

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“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31.31-34)

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“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14.15-26)

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  1. But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures. For since all cannot read the Scriptures, some being hindered as to the knowledge of them by want of learning, and others by a want of leisure, in order that the soul may not perish from ignorance, we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines.  This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper, but engraving it by the memory upon your heart, taking care while you rehearse it that no Catechumen chance to overhear the things which have been delivered to you.  I wish you also to keep this as a provision through the whole course of your life, and beside this to receive no other, neither if we ourselves should change and contradict our present teaching, nor if an adverse angel, transformed into an angel of light should wish to lead you astray.  For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema.  So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents.  For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith.  And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments.  Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them an the table of your heart.
  2. Guard them with reverence, lest per chance the enemy despoil any who have grown slack; or lest some heretic pervert any of the truths delivered to you. For faith is like putting money into the bank, even as we have now done; but from you God requires the accounts of the deposit.  I charge you, as the Apostle saith, before God, who quickeneth all things, and Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession, that ye keep this faith which is committed to you, without spot, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  A treasure of life has now been committed to thee, and the Master demandeth the deposit at His appearing, which in His own times He shall shew, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen nor can see.  To Whom be glory, honour, and power for ever and ever.  Amen. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, Number 5)

Be Angry But Do Not Sin

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1.19-21)

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesian 4.26-27)

Anger is by nature designed for waging war with the demons and for struggling with every kind of sinful pleasure. Therefore angels, arousing spiritual pleasure in us and giving us to taste its blessedness, incline us to direct our anger against the demons. But the demons, enticing us towards worldly lusts, make us use anger to fight with men, which is against nature, so that the mind, thus stupefied and darkened, should become a traitor to virtues. — Abba Evagrius the Monk (Texts on Active Life no. 15)

Illumination

When a man detaches his mind from earth and opens it toward God with the desire to please Him, then God reveals His will in various ways. St. Peter of Damascus writes: “If a man has a full intention to please God, then God teaches him His will either through thoughts, through some other person, or through Holy Scripture.” Such a man becomes attentive and keen, and awaits God’s promptings from within and from without. For him, chance ceases to exist. The whole world becomes as a ten-stringed harp, which does not give out a single sound without the finger of God.

Source: The Prologue, April 10th

Death Unto Life

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24).

Why does the sower cast wheat upon the ground? Does he do this so that the wheat will die and rot? No, he does this so that it will live and bear fruit. In sowing the seed, the sower does not think about the death and decay of the seed, but rather about its life and yield. Indeed, with joy does the sower sow his seed, not thinking about the death of the seed, but rather about life and fruitfulness.

The Sower is Christ the Lord and men are His wheat. He was pleased to call us wheat. There are many other types of seed on earth, but nothing is more precious than wheat. Why did the Lord sow us throughout the world? So that we should die and decay? No, rather that we should live and bring forth fruit. He alludes to our death incidently. He alludes to death only as a condition for life and multiple yield. The goal of sowing is not death but life. The seed must first die and decay, and He mentions this only in passing because He knows we are fully aware of it. He only reminds us incidently of this, as His Gospel is primarily a narrative of life–about life and about bringing forth good fruit. He speaks to us a great deal about the latter because He knows we are not aware of it and that we are suffocating from ignorance and doubt. Not only does He speak to us abundantly about life, but He also shows us life. By His Resurrection, He demonstrates to us, more clearly than the sun, life and the multitude of fruit. The entire history of His Church is a clear map of life.

O invincible Lord of Life, save us from a sinful death. Deliver us from spiritual death.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Source: The Prologue, April 9

Conquering Voice

Elizaveta Yurievna Pilenko (1891-1945), murdered in the concentration camp at Ravensbrück who became known as Mother Mary Skobtsova of Paris, was, as is every saint in their own way, a conquering voice. The word of God proceeds from them, conquering sin and death both inside and outside the Church, and returns to God having accomplished the work for which it was sent.

“It would be a great lie to tell searching souls ‘go to church because there you will find peace.’ The opposite is true. Go to church because there you will feel real alarm about your sins, about your perdition, about the world’s sins and perdition. There you will feel an unappeasable hunger for Christ’s truth. There, instead of lukewarm, you will become ardent, instead of pacified you will become alarmed. Instead of learning the wisdom of this world you will become foolish in Christ…

Freedom calls us to act the Fool for Christ’s sake, at variance with enemies and even friends, to develop the life of the Church in just that way in which it is most difficult. And we shall live as Fools, since we know not only the difficulty of this way of life, but also the exaltation of sensing God’s hand on our work.” — Mother Mary of Paris

Keep the Watch and See

25 And in the fourth watch of the night (fourth watch = 3-6am) he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14.25-31)

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The hours between 3am and 6am.

The passages of Scripture associated with this time are numerous.

Keeping watch is synonymous with vigilance. It involves the edge where the temptation to turn away and to give in to slumber is great. Here the struggle is real not theoretical. Here the challenge is to avow or deny. Peter denied Jesus at “cockcrow” – the dawn – during the fourth watch. Here is where the saying is true, “It is darkest before the dawn.”

Here is where, “a little before dawn” Jesus made His first resurrection appearance (Luke 24.1).

The struggle to trust and not fear.

It is here that we ask, “Was that real or did I dream it?!”

It is here that the shadow of death becomes the morning (Amos 5.8). This is the place where what God creates. The new day dawns for us (Psalm 118.24).

It is the “time between times.” The liminal place where the change from one thing to another takes place. It is the place of transformation.

The threshold. The doorway.

The baptismal font.

It is here that Jesus “stands at the door and knocks.”

How can we watch if our eyes are closed? How can we watch if we are blind? How can we watch unless we can see and choose to see?

So, it is here where the heart is purified and the eyes are healed. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” It is essential to keep watch in this place. To stand and having stood, to stand.

Let us open to Him. Let us be attentive ! !

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“So be ready in the morning to come up on Mount Sinai and to present yourself to Me there on top of the mountain.” (Exodus 34.1)

The morning watch is essential. You must not face the day until you have faced God, nor look into the face of others until you have looked into His. You cannot expect to be victorious, if the day begins only in your own strength.

Face the work of every day with the influence of a few thoughtful, quiet moments with your heart and God. Do not meet other people, even those of your own home, until you have first met the great Guest and honored Companion of your life–Jesus Christ.

Meet Him alone. Meet Him regularly. Meet Him with His open Book of counsel before you; and face the regular and the irregular duties of each day with the influence of His personality definitely controlling your every act.

Begin the day with God!
He is thy Sun and Day!
His is the radiance of thy dawn;
To Him address thy lay.
Sing a new song at morn!
Join the glad woods and hills;
Join the fresh winds and seas and plains,
Join the bright flowers and rills.
Sing thy first song to God!
Not to thy fellow men;
Not to the creatures of His hand,
But to the glorious One.
Take thy first walk with God!
Let Him go forth with thee;
By stream, or sea, or mountain path,
Seek still His company.
Thy first transaction be
With God Himself above;
So shall thy business prosper well,

And all the day be love.
–Horatius Bonar

The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early upon their knees. Matthew Henry used to be in his study at four, and remain there till eight; then, after breakfast and family prayer, he used to be there again till noon; after dinner, he resumed his book or pen till four, and spent the rest of the day in visiting his friends.

Doddridge himself alludes to his “Family Expositor” as an example of the difference of rising between five and seven, which, in forty years, is nearly equivalent to ten years more of life.

Dr. Adam Clark’s “Commentary” was chiefly prepared very early in the morning. Barnes’ popular and useful “Commentary” has been also the fruit of “early morning hours.”

Simeon’s “Sketches” were chiefly worked out between four and eight.

Source: Streams in the Desert, March 3, by Cowman

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As I rise from sleep, I thank Thee, O Holy Trinity, for through Thy great goodness and patience Thou wast not angry with me, an idler and sinner, nor hast Thou destroyed me with mine iniquities, but hast shown Thy usual love for mankind; and when I was prostrate in despair, Thou hast raised me up to keep the morning watch and glorify Thy power. And now enlighten my mind’s eye, and open my mouth that I many meditate on Thy words, and understand Thy commandments, and do Thy will, and hymn Thee, in heartfelt confession, and sing praises to Thine all-holy name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Source: Orthodox Morning Prayers

My brothers and sisters. The new day dawns. This prayer, along with all the prayers of the Morning Office, are to enter into, by repentance, the victorious life – the light of life – which is Christ Jesus. It is, for us, not the day of picnicking. It is the day of battle. The day to work out our salvation with fear and trembling in the arena.

11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13.11-14 — NKJV)

Is There Such a Thing as Too Gentle?

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.
–St. Seraphim of Sarov
Source: Enlarging the Heart (BTW, I am very grateful for this wonderful blogsite. It is a true blessing.)

The Simple Life – The Good Life

The gospel readings remind me that, in view of the fact that that this gospel could be “best understood” and “most effectively lived” by “uneducated men” (Acts 4.13), the commonest of people who populated ancient Palestine (the fools !!), it must be a matter of the heart not the head. It points to the presence of a deep intuition that is not acquired but already present though inaccessible to us. Not achieved via the doctorate or the tickling of the emotions, but via the heart and the pouring out of life via “two copper coins.”

There is one thing needful and one thing only – the simplicity and mysterious quietness of an unrelenting hunger and thirst for righteousness (right relationship of synergistic union). The spirit of Mary. My Martha self and its attachment tobookworm education and emotional comfort can be the biggest roadblocks (distractions) to “understanding” and “living (working) out” of salvation in course of everyday life.

Ironic that these two – education and emotional comfort – are among the major goals of our post-Enlightenment social matrix.

Perhaps this is what I need to fast from – educated-ness and the false comfort it offers.

I have too many books and not enough silence. I need to spend more time engaged in what Elder Sophrony taught rather than reading about what Elder Sophrony taught…

The permutations of my familiar demon – the educated Thomas – are seemingly endless.

Twists and turns abound… Perhaps my road to hell is lined with bookshelves and comfortable leather library chairs…

Someone has said to me about all of this, “God is simple and still. We can only be with Him if we are simple and still.”

God grant me the mercy of this fast — simplicity and stillness. Not to fix but to heal.

Shared Life

“…but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12.9 – RSV)

“MY grace is sufficient for you.”

I am bold enough to read that as “The grace which is ME living in you and expressing MYSELF through you, is sufficient for you.”

My sufficiency is participating with others in the “shared-life” of Christ Jesus. In so much as I do so (live out baptism by unceasing repentance) I actually share the life of Christ Jesus and HIS life is manifest through me; AND I actually realize and live into the shared-life with others that is ours in Christ Jesus.

“My Lord IS my life,” AND “My brother (and sister) IS my life.”

So, we share in life and life is shared through us.