2/22/2021

The past couple of days have been quite busy. Have continued my Lenten reading (all but Saturday when I was painting the home oratory), but not much to post.

The following two passages from “On the Prayer of Jesus” really struck home to me.

“The name of the Lord is above every name; it is a source of delight, a source of joy, a source of life. It is Spirit. It quickens (vivifies), transforms, purifies, deifies. For the illiterate it can replace in a completely satisfactory manner vocal prayer and psalmody. The literate, having made some progress in the prayer of Jesus, give up the variety of psalmody and begin pre-eminently to practice the prayer of Jesus on account of the superabundant power and nourishment contained in it.”

“We want to be clever, we want to revive our own ego, we cannot bear self-renunciation or self-denial, we have no desire to live and act by faith. It is for this reason that we need a guide to lead us out of our complexity, out of our cuteness, out of our cunning, out of our vanity and self-confidence, into the breadth and simplicity of faith.”

The latter passage is why we all need a Spiritual Father (to use the old language). We are incapable of doing the deep spiritual work on our own, because we cannot guide ourselves out of our self-love and protection. An experienced, read practiced, and mature Spiritual Father has the gift of discernment to see beyond our pretenses and into our hearts to apply the appropriate spiritual medicine.

While it is not just priests who can serve as Spiritual Fathers, let us pray for our clergy that they (we) may especially become those experienced and faithful people of prayer. Let us also encourage them, and hold them accountable to being first and foremost prayer warriors. For that is what prayer is, as seen in the charge made upon the receiving of a prayer rope, or beads, “Receive, brother, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Carry it upon thy lips, in they mind and in thine heart, and say unceasingly: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”

2/18/21

Laughing at my subtitle: A place to store my thoughts and keep them fresh. Based on my posting history, I do not seem to have many of these. Or is it that I just do not like the writing process? Methinks the latter.

Although, in all truthfulness “fresh” thoughts about theology are usually what leads us to the dread “H” word. We are not charged to come up with “fresh” and “new” theology, but to keep the tradition that has been handed down to us fresh. That is what a humidor does, it keeps the old fresh as it ages them appropriately. Let us not seek our own “fresh” thoughts, but refresh ourselves in the Faith once delivered, for that is the Faith that saves.

I was reminded of this in my reading of “On the Prayer of Jesus” today. In discussing the permissibility, allowed by some spiritual fathers, to pray the prayer in two different parts, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on, a sinner” and “Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”, he quotes St. Gregory of Sinai who forbid frequently changing the pattern of the original prayer. St. Gregory writes: “Trees that are often transplanted do not take root.”

So it is with us if we are constantly chasing the “fresh” and the “new”. We need the consistency, and the constancy, of the Faith.

From: “Orthodox Faith” by St. John of Damascus: “But, since with God creation is a work of His will, it is not co-eternal with Him–which is because it is not of the nature of that which is produced from nothing to co-eternal with that which is without beginning and always existing.” (Book I.8.)

Ash Wednesday 2021

As we are surrounded by inches of falling white stuff we begin the Great Fast. After the year 2020 was, and 2021 has begun, I think it a good time to be reminded of our mortality and its Cure. I know that I need Christ more each day, and need to commit to becoming more like Him each day.

So with that said, on to the annual re-post.

I recently enjoyed a very special cigar as I was working my way through a demanding text.  I was alone, and thought it a good day to dive into my reserve.  That particular cigar was a Tatuaje robusto, and it has been aging for four years and was a thoroughly delightful creamy smoke. In fact, I delighted in this cigar so much, that I closed the book and just enjoyed the experience of the taste, the smell, and watching the smoke curl toward the ceiling and fill the room with its aroma.  It tasted of heavy cream, cinnamon, clove, and a slight hint of pepper.  The room note reminded me of “Blanc” incense.  So, I just sat back and relaxed, and tried to make it last as long as possible.

Unfortunately, as with all good cigars, at the end of the hour there was just a pile of ash left in the tray, and a memory of that smoke upon my taste buds.  I was sorely tempted to open the box and smoke another, but realized that would not be a wise decision, and looked with a bit of melancholy at the remains of what had been a great cigar, and was not but just a memory.  This is the fate of all cigars and pipe tobacco, no matter how expensive, how great, how cheap, or how terrible, all of them become just a pile of ash at the end of the day.  They burn up, they burn out, and they are no more than a memory.

Is that not the lesson of Ash Wednesday?  We are all destined to be just like that great cigar.  No matter our station in life, rich/poor, wise/foolish, Republican/Democrat, beautiful/homely, or any other label, we are all destined to become nothing but a pile of ash.  We will die.  This is not because we are “used up”, but because of the effects of Sin. As the Good Book says, “The wages of sin is death”, and we all get paid.

However, this is what makes the Christian faith different; we have hope beyond the ashiness of our existence.  Because of Christ, his Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, we have hope that this mortal body, though used up and ashy, will be raised and made new.  Because of Christ, death is not the end, and those who are found in Him will be raised like him.

On this day, when we remember our mortality, our common destiny to be put a pile of ash, let us repent and return to the Lord who can raise a pile of ash to new life.

May you have blessed Ash Wednesday.