In those moments when we come to liturgy anxious, weary and weak, there is a temptation to see the Liturgy and the sacraments as magical and the priest as a magician. The priest needs to be on guard for this attitude among his parishioners. It is important that he be viglant in this matter not only for their sake but his own as well.
And yet, in the moment, it can be incredibly hard to remember all of this. As much as I want to abandon myself to the divine providence, to trust in God and His great love and mercy for me, the suffering of the present moment seems to defeat me. I might not curse God but I often do wonder why His plan seems to require my pain.
No one comes to the Church except by the prompting of God and because of an experience, however obscure, of His great mercy. It is our great privilege—mine as well as yours—to help people discern the presence of God in their lives. It is our calling as Orthodox Christians first to help people understand the faith that God has planted in their hearts.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, far from being opposed, justice and mercy require each other. Without mercy, the pursuit of justice becomes harsh and unyielding; without justice, however, mercy becomes mere sentimentality and leads me to collude with evils great and small.
But what we profess is not a philosophy, even if (in the hands of some) it has become an ideology. What we profess is not mere history. What we profess is human history transformed and transfigured to become Holy Tradition, the Voice of the Holy Spirit leading the Church from generation to generation.
For Christians as well as those outside the Church, probably no topic is as misunderstood as obedience. And yet, obedience is foundational not only to our relationship with Christ but for the whole of the Church’s life. Obedience to Holy Tradition, to our bishop and our conscience all serve to keep us united to God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
"Each of us must discern the providential working out of God’s grace in our own lives. Just as spouses are called to discern God’s providence in each others’ lives parents are to do this for their children. Turning from the family to the Church, priests are responsible for discerning and fostering the vocation of their parishioners and bishops for the members of the diocese. All of this is, necessarily, personal."
Wholesome spiritual formation requires balancing the personal, communal and social dimension of our Christian life. While the latter two are important, finding the right mix of all three begins in our personal spiritual formation. Without accurate self-knowledge, wholesome self-acceptance and appropriate self-expression, our social involvement will inevitably become dissonant and we risk doing a lasting harm to our own relationship with Christ.
Sometimes God will ask me to do something and, like the disciples in this morning’s Gospel, I say I can’t. This happens because I forget that God doesn’t ask anything from us without first preparing us. From all eternity, God has lead not only the whole human family but each of us to respond to Him in love.
As he has done in the past, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his encyclical for the beginning of the Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical year (September 1) meditates on “the ongoing and daily destruction of the natural environment.” Environmental damage is the poisoned fruit of “human greed” and the pursuit of “vain profit,” the patriarch writes.
Several of my friends on Facebook pages posted a link to David Dunn’s Huffington Post essay on gun control (An Eastern Orthodox Case for Banning Assault Weapons). As Dylan Pahman posted earlier today, Dunn, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, is to be commended for bringing the tradition of the Orthodox Church into conversation with contemporary issues such as gun control.