Monthly Archives: December 2014

False Humility and Hypocrisy

An Egyptian brother came to see Abba Zeno in Syria, and accused himself to the old man about his temptations. Filled with admiration, Zeno said, ‘ The Egyptians hide the virtues they possess and ceaselessly accuse themselves of faults they do not have, while the Syrians and Greeks pretend to have virtues they do not have, and hide the faults of which they are guilty.’

—–sayings of the desert

Guilt driven humility and hypocrisy rob God of his glory. These traits are more similar than we realize.

Korn_let_the_guilt_goWe have our own brand of guilt driven Egyptians in our society this very day. They have been so weighted down by the rules of religion that they fail to shine forth the light that the Creator has bestowed upon them. Out of guilt they hide their light under a bushel basket . The scripture tells us, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.” God says let ,”your light shine!”

Hypocrites – we certainly have our share. Our modern day Syrians and Greeks populate some of the more prestigious seats in our society. They are found in government, in the sports arena and certainly in our churches. They are taught very early to put their best foot forward and to spin the story in their favor. Such people are admired and put forth as role models for all to follow. The scripture gives us a warning about such behavior. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.”

God created us with both good and bad, so let us never forget that we all sin and fall short of him. That being said, we are the vessels that carry forth His light to the world. We are called to be a genuine cracked, bruised and flawed works that are mended together by His love and grace. Today the Abba calls on us to think on these things.

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Living Contemplatives

If we want to live as Monks, we must try to understand what the monastic life really is. We must try reach the springs from which that life flows. We must have some notion of our spiritual roots, that we may better able to sink them deep into the soil.

—-Thomas Merton

merton by the fireplaceThese are the opening words to Thomas Merton’s Introduction to Monastic Spiritually. Though the book was written for young men who were entering into a monastic vocation, it speaks to all of us who seek to live as contemplatives where we are planted. Merton points out three very important directions that all contemplative seekers must follow:

  • He urges us to reach the springs from which such a life flows. There is not one among us who does not have a deep driving desire to discover the “God spring” that is at our grasp. God promises never to leave or forsake us and I believe He means it. Therefore, I will continue to have an outstretched hand toward that goal.
  • We are called to discover our spiritual roots. Merton seems to imply that the key to this discovery is in the search. As we search and find our spring we realize we are created in the image and likeness of God, and we were created with great promise and gifted by God with the ability to live a productive, God honoring life.
  • Growth is then attained by sinking our roots deeply into our spiritual soil. Our roots are continually watered by the spring from which our life flows. The depth of the roots of any tree determines its ability to stand against the wind. So with us, we must be able to withstand the winds of adversity that come our way in the Christian journey.

These three steps propel us in our journeys to, and with, God. The spring waters and the roots grow in their depth and breath. The result is that we are living contemplatives that seek the face of God.

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Missing Letter “R”

A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned
to helping the other monks in copying the old canons
and laws of the church, by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are
copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.
So, the new monk goes to the Old Abbot to question
this, pointing out that if someone made even a smallimage
error in the first copy, it would never be picked up!
In fact, that error would be continued in all of
the subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, “We have been copying
from the copies for centuries, but you make a
good point, my son.”

He goes down into the dark caves
underneath the monastery where the original
manuscripts are held as archives,
in a locked vault that hasn’t
been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the Old Abbot.
So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him.
He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing.

“We missed the R! We missed the R!
We missed the bloody R!”
His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably.
The young monk asks the old Abbot, “What’s wrong, father?”

With a choking voice, the old Abbot replies,

“The word was …
CELEBRATE!”

(The origin of this story is unknown to me)

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Adversity and Grace

Abba Isaiah said ‘When God wishes to take pity on a soul and it rebels not bearing anything and doing its own will, he then allows it to suffer that which it does not want, in order that it may seek him again.’

—–sayings of the desert

Desert SageThese particular words of wisdom are not the most popular or believed ones that we are given by the fathers. All of us have seen people who seem to sin abundantly and continue to thrive. Likewise, we have all seen people who are apparently very pious who experience much suffering. Perhaps I might suggest another way of looking at this difficult dilemma.

God created us for good. He created us to be productive, and we are the crown of His creation. God is our guardian, and He watches over us and gives us grace. Through Him we prosper and achieve. There are times in our lives, no matter how pious we appear, that we reject His grace. At times we stand up and say, I want to do this my way, and God gives us the free will to do so. These times often lead to adversity, and in adversity we turn to God knowing that He is our only hope. Not only is He our only hope, He still loves us even when we have been rebellious and stubborn. The message from the desert is that God sometimes draws us to Himself by adversary.

Prayer Thought

Lord help me to see You at work in my bad times. Allow me to surrender myself to your grace so that I might experience your full love.

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The Story of St. Nicholas

Nederlands: Sinterklaas tijdens het Het Feest ...

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned.

The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals,murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6.

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The North Pole is a City

Like Mendicant Monks...

BON-7December 6/19, St. Nicholas
Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, the Wonderworker
Whose Relics Lie Principally in Bari, Italy
And Whose Legendary Brother Santa Claus Lives in the North Pole

It was unthinkable. Several years ago, we were celebrating the annual feast of St. Nicholas, and our priest confessed that there was not a single person in our parish whom we could wish a happy name’s day. My wife, who was pregnant at the time, turned to me and we decided then and there to start a trend that is all too common in other Orthodox and Eastern European Churches. Now, including my son, there are at least two boys named Nicholas in our parish. We are now more like the Greek family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding with every other person named Nick, Nikko, Nikki, or Nikolaki.

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