Making Plans

“Boast not of tomorrow, for you know not what any day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).

In his homily for today, June 25th, from The Prologue, Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich issues a poignant warning (it can be found here). It is “vain fantasizing,” he says to make plans based on the certainty that we will be alive to accomplish those plans. We do not, I believe St. Nikolai is saying, have the prerogative to live as if we have tomorrow or next month or any day beyond today for that matter. Therefore, it is deeply presumptuous to “boast” about what we will do in the future.

The sin of boasting in this sense is twofold.

First, it is presumptuous to make plans regarding the future based on the ILLUSIONARY CERTAINTY that tomorrow will even occur. When we plan in this way, we are taking the place of God. We are creating a day that does not exist and making plans about it based on that creation. That is sheer fantasy and foolishness in the extreme! We do not have the power to declare that tomorrow will come.

Second, it is presumptuous to make proclamations about what WE WILL DO in that day. Such declarations presuppose a strength and certainty about what will be required of us we do not possess.

Almost every time I visited the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai I have heard the monks speaking about the future and their plans with the disclaimer, “If God wills.”

Our first reaction, perhaps, to such a statement is to strike out with a statement such as, “Well of course we need to make plans for the future. It is the responsible thing to do. Certainly you do not mean we should be irresponsible!” I have made such statements on a number of occasions. As a matter of fact, too many occasions.

I say “too many” because on every one of those occasions I was doing the very thing about which St. Nikolai is warning us. I was speaking out of a spirit of presumption and boasting. I was, as Metropolitan Jonah and Abbot Meletios say, “in my head” and not “in my heart” or “in my right mind” (an spirit inspired intellect). It was my passions speaking.

There is a faithful way to plan. It is from within the context of “according to God’s will” or “if the Lord wills.”

This way of planning is filled with faith, love, humility, etc. In essence, the fruit of the Spirit. It is planning from the heart enlisting the intellect in as much as it is able.

You might be protesting in your “head” that this is not very “practical” or “reasonable.” Well, that IS THE POINT, isn’t it?! We need to be vigilant in our care about making proclamations about what we will do and what we will accomplish. Why?

People make plans and begin to hang their future on our proclamations. They depend on us to follow through and deliver on our statements and commitments. If those issue from our passions instead of our hearts and inspired intellect in community, we are doing those people a disservice to say the least.

Let us endeavor to plan from within the context of the fruit of the Spirit as much as possible.

Fr. Thomas

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A Good, Loving and Merciful God

In the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as well as the “Hours,” there are repeated statements about the loving character of God. A couple of phrases will suffice: “Thou art a merciful God and lovest mankind” and “Christ our true God a good, loving, and merciful God.”

I believe the Eastern Church has it right in taking many many opportunities to remind the faithful of this truth. This emphasis is part of the “renewal of the mind.”

A friend of mine shared a quote from the great Victorian author, Anthony Trollope while he was a postal worker in Ireland. It reiterates the conviction that our God is merciful and loving in all His ways toward mankind.

It is a beautiful statement, well worth copying and carrying with us through the day.

“I do not believe that our God stalks darkly along the clouds, laying thousands low with the arrows of death… but though I do not believe in exhibitions of God’s anger, I do believe in exhibitions of his mercy. When men by their folly and by the shortness of their vision have brought upon themselves penalties which seem to be overwhelming, to which no end can be seen, which would be overwhelming were no aid coming to us but our own, then God raises his hand, not in anger, but in mercy, and by his wisdom does for us that for which our own wisdom has been insufficient.” -Anthony Trollope

– Fr. Thomas

“The One Mystical Person”

I find that I am like a harp. God plucks strings in my life both externally and internally. By means of these “touches,” as well as many other agencies or ways, I sense the leading and hear the voice of God.

Just such a “plucking” is occurring in my life.

The first “pluck,” came years ago. I remember being told, years ago, two things. First, God really only deals with me individually in terms my membership in the Body of Christ – as a member of the one mystical person named “The Church” and “Bride of Christ.” Second, God the Father only deals with humanity as one person through one of two persons, Adam or Christ Jesus and this is the reason that St. Paul talks about Christ Jesus as the “second Adam.”

Those statements impressed me intellectually and were instantly written on my heart. They have informed my understanding of “me” as a Christian and “us” as the Body of Christ ever since.

Just recently, that string of meaning and transformation has been “plucked” again.

It began with a retreat I attended with a group of pastors with whom I fellowship on a regular basis. We are struggling with the mandate to way in the “unity” about which Jesus speaks in His high priestly prayer in John 17.

Pluck…

Then, yesterday.

I am currently listening to set of retreat CD’s by Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA. He offered the retreat at Holy Trinity Antiochian Orthodox Church, Santa Fe, New Mexico in the fall of 2005, while still the Abbot of the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.

Yesterday, in the course of listening to the first reflection, Fr. Jonah, makes the point that the Church as the Body of Christ is one mystical person in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. He, of course, can, and must, share this essential reality as the very heart/goal of the Christian life. In turn, we can, and must, realize and struggle faithfully to live this reality.

Pluck…

Then, this morning, I was reading one the blogs I follow (the post can be found here). In it, Aaron Taylor, an Orthodox Christian layman of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad makes, basically the same point. He quotes, in the course of his post, St. Justin (Popovich): “Christians are those through whom the holy Divine-human life of Christ is continued from generation to generation until the end of the world and of time, and they all make up one body, the Body of Christ—the Church: they are sharers of the Body of Christ and members of one another (I Cor. 12:27, 12-14, 10:17; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 3:6).”

Pluck…

We are, my brothers and sisters, truly “members one of another.” We constitute, by the power of the Holy Spirit, one mystical person united to the Father, in Christ Jesus.

It staggers my mind AND my heart. It comforts and is the very content of my heart that I desire for it to comfort and fill my mind. It desire for it to be effectively displayed in every aspect of my life.

Glory to God for this and all things!!

Fr. Thomas