A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, ‘My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother’s faults’. The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), ‘In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, “Father, why are you weeping?” “I am weeping over my sins,” the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, “You do not have any sins, Father.” The old man replied, “Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them.”
—sayings of the desert
We rarely think of the depth of our failure. Such a thought would be too overwhelming to bear. The best worldly advice we are given is to think positively. Those who fail to see the good in themselves, we are told, can be very perilous. Such a person no longer works as well, fits in the social order as well, and just seems to drag others down. The Abba gives us an important word in this saying. He challenges us to understand that in the recognition of our sins we understand the marvelous grace of God. If we had to carry the full burden of our failures, we would collapse under their weight. Yes, we must recognize and weep for our sins but God will sustain us in our weeping. And, most importantly, He will give us the grace we need.
- God is not Catholic, says Pope (bryanpattersonfaithworks.wordpress.com)
“What am I to do, Abba, since passions and demons beset me?” a young monk asked the holy Abbot.
“Do not say that you are bothered by demons, child,” answered the elder, “because the greater part of us are beset by our own evil desires.”
——Sayings of the Desert
Flip Wilson was a quite popular stand-up comedian of the 60’s and 70’s whose trademark phrase was “the devil made me do it.” His catch phase served as an excuse for any type of outrageous behavior. Those words became very popular and were used by many to excuse their own behavior. Flip Wilson knew the expression was just a joke, but this expression is hidden in each of us. They are an unrelenting desire to pass responsibility along to someone or something else.
The wise Abba is confronted by the very same concept by a young monk. This young brother couldn’t possibly see that he was largely responsible for his our behavior. His Abba correctly instructed him to start with himself, and in doing so he would find victory over the demons. This approach holds a very profound lesson for us. Transformation begins with me.
My favorite pop philosopher, Jimmy Buffet, says it all in his signature song – Margaritaville. After three verses of decrying his plight with the words “there must be someone to blame,” the final verse says, “its my own d**n fault.
OURS IS THE GREATER PART
Jerome was a hermit, priest, and father of the church who guided the church as it translated the Bible from Greek to Latin, the language of the people. Jerome wanted the people to read and know the Bible. He lived in Bethlehem for a time to get a feel of how Jesus lived during his earthly journey. Oral tradition tells us that while living in Bethlehem, Jerome had a dream that Jesus visited him. The dream was so real that he rounded up all his material blessings and offered them to Jesus. He heard the Lord declare, “I do not want your possessions.” So being a good church leader, he offered all his money to Jesus. Jesus once again declared, “I do not want your money.” Finally, in desperation, Jerome cried out, “Jesus, what do you want from me?” Jesus simply replied, “Give me your sins. That is what I came for–I came to take away your sin. Give me your sin.”
That’s really what it’s is all about. Jesus wants our sins! He asks us to love and trust Him enough to be able to give all to Him. Our Lord asks us to confess the unforgivable and feel the warmth of His grace. Many of us are far too busy trying to impress God when all He wants is for us to trust in His promise. That promise is: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” As we bring our sins, He offers His rest. Jerome had it right, all Jesus wants is our sins.
In his heart a man plans his course …..
THE COURSE OUR LIVES TAKE WILL BE DETERMINED BY THE CONDITION OF OUR HEARTS !
IT’S IN OUR HEARTS THAT WE DETERMINE …..
- WHO WE WILL LIVE FOR ?
- WHO WE WILL SERVE ?
- WHO WE WILL LOVE ?
- WILL IT BE THE GOD OF HEAVEN OR THE GOD OF THIS WORLD ?
……….being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.
Just recently I was introduced to Dorotheos of Gaza by Professor Emeritus Roberta Bondi from Chandler School of Theology. I find his words an additional treasure trove of desert wisdom that I will be blogging on from time to time. Irvin
In His loving-kindness God has given us purifying commandments so that, if we wish, we can by their observance be cleansed not only of sins but also of passions themselves. For passions are one thing and sins another. Passions are: anger, vanity, love of pleasures, hatred, evil lust and the like. Sins are the actual operations of passions, when a man puts them into practice, that is, performs with the body the actions to which his passions urge him. For it is possible to have passions and yet not to act from them.
Doretheos of Gaza
——-Dorotheos of Gaza
At first glance Dorotheos seems to be implying that we can approach God with behavior modification. That is not the base point of the teaching. We can dig far deeper by gaining the insight of the undeniable relationship between passion and sin. If we can come to understand that God is seeking to guide us to recognize our passions without allowing them to control us like puppets on a string, we can arrive at a peace that is currently beyond our grasp. Passions and sins are not one in the same. Passions are the root of sin, but passions are not an excuse for sin. The father clearly points out that we can have passions without sin. There are two keys: to observe the commands of God and avoid sin, and to understand that our passions drive us in the direction of sin. With that knowledge, it will be possible to have passions and not sin.
Additionally, I believe that passions allow us to live our lives to the fullest. Our deepest passions are one way we were created in the “image and likeness” of God. We are to go to God and ask Him to gift us with deep passion to live, to love, and to serve. With these passions, we become great servants and productive people. The acknowledgement of evil passions as the root of sin is the beginning of the road to glorification.
Anselm of Canterbury was the first to attempt an ontological argument for God’s existence. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
God’s Likeness, then, may be attained by us in this way; if, musing on Him as the Good, we study to be good; if, owning Him the Just, we strive to be just; if, contemplating Him the Merciful, we make endeavors after mercy.
——-Anselm of Canterbury
The goal of every God fearing person is to somehow be like God. We all want to gain Godly attributes in our lives. Anselm used three words – musing, owning, and contemplating. His first was musing which means to meditate very deeply on a particular subject. Anselm chose to focus on the goodness of God; as a result, goodness becomes more natural to him. Anselm then moved on to seeing God as just. We all have our times of questioning the justice of God in our horribly unjust world. In owning God as a just God, Anselm, and we too, can learn the importance of striving to be just to all. Then comes a most important likeness of God, mercy. To truly understand the good and justice that Gods pours out on us, we must understand and practice mercy.
Think on these things and allow God to use you as His instrument. We serve a mighty and powerful God who wants to equip us to do the manifold tasks of ministry and to live as beacons of His presence in the world.
He also said, ‘The nearer a man draws to God, the more he sees himself as a sinner. It was when Isaiah the prophet saw God, that he declared himself “a man of unclean lips.” ’ (Isaiah 6:5)
——-Abba Mateos of the Desert
These are great words coming from the wise monk. We should take to heart the notion that closeness to God gives us a greater awareness of our inability to live the life of perfection. With this awareness we open ourselves to the abundance of grace that God sends our way, and to a better understanding of our neighbor. In the acceptance of our own sin, forgiveness of others becomes more natural. As long as we hold on to our own pride and power, we will never fully experience the presence of God.
- An Older Gospel (laymansbible.wordpress.com)
Someone said to Abba Arsenius, ‘My thoughts trouble me, saying, “You can neither fast nor work; at least go and visit the sick, for that is also charity.”‘ But the old man, recognizing the suggestions of the demons, said to him, ‘Go, eat, drink, sleep, do no work, only do not leave your cell.’ For he knew that steadfastness in the cell keeps a monk in the right way.
—sayings of the Desert Fathers
A great “demon” of all people is restlessness. This feeling can cause us to stray away from our purpose in life. We have a tendency to fill our days with meaningless activities that accomplish nothing. The greatest tool of the evil one is distraction from purpose. Most believers get up every morning with the intention to “do no evil,” but the demands of the world can sidetrack the best among us. Keeping our focus on our “cells” of life will keep us on track. We pray, we care, we are other focused, and this is the calling of all Christ followers.
This Friday is a somber day for Christians throughout the world. Maybe I have a slight feeling for what Mary, the mother of Jesus experienced as she watched her son die such a slow and painful death.
I have read about the horror of a crucifixion and what an awful death it was. It was so demeaning that no Roman would be subject to it, only outsiders.
May you realize the sacrifice that God has made for you this Easter Season. In His unparalleled grace and mercy, He has forgiven you all your sins. You are His beloved child.
In return, ask Him what plan He has in mind for you.