Martyrs Thyrsus, Leucis, Callinicus, Philemon, Apollonius, Arianus
“He being one Son, dual in Nature, not dual in Person. Wherefore, do we confess, preaching the truth that Christ our God is perfect God and perfect Man.”
(Troparion of the Resurrection on the Feast of the Holy Forefathers).
O faithful, let us acclaim the lover of the Trinity, great Maximos who taught the God-inspired Faith, that Christ is to be glorified in two natures, wills and energies: and let us cry to him: Rejoice, O herald of the Faith.
- Kontakion to St. Maximus the Confessor
3rd & 6th Hrs & Typica
We must, then, maintain that Christ has two energies in
virtue of His double nature. For things that have diverse natures, have also
different energies, and things that have diverse energies, have also
different natures. –
A passion which we allow to grow active within us through our own choice afterwards forces itself upon us against our will. -- Saint Kosmas Aitolos
He who is under the power of sin cannot by himself prevail over the will of the flesh, because he suffers continual stimulation in all his members. -- Saint Kosmas Aitolos
The simplest means for confining the will within its proper bounds lies in disposing children to do nothing without permission. Let them be eager to run to their parents and ask: May I do this or that? They should be persuaded by their own experience and that of others that to fulfill their own desires without asking is dangerous; they should be put in such a frame of mind that they even fear their own will. -- St Theophan the Recluse
Now we are in darkness
We are in darkness, now, until God becomes man. We look now, in this Little Lent, toward our Winter Pascha, toward the Nativity of God, when God became man to bring man to God. Let us prepare ourselves, fasting from food and from every passion. Let us meditate on the darkness of Death, the unknowable darkness of the heart, and that blessed darkness in which the Holy Trinity is the only and unapproachable Light.
We look to the Incarnation, as we follow the Gospel on our holy calendar, because He has become man for us, to make us God with Him. We can rejoice in the redemption of our nature, because he has united human nature to his divine nature, in perfect union and distinction. Let us each be united to Him also in person.
Let us now pursue our union with Him, our theosis, for each of us must be redeemed as persons and so become whole. God, by becoming man, has confronted each of us at the personal level, leaving us no recourse to neutrality nor safety. Either we turn away from the defining event in human history, the meaning of existence, choosing nonexistence, or else we respond to the Incarnation by seeking Him out as the Heaven that came down to earth.
St. Peter Damascene made a list of the passions he found mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. Among them are ones I find difficult to understand, having only begun to ascend the Ladder. Some, I do understand. I think it’s helpful to think on a few of them at a time. This week, a selection of 24 from St. Peter’s list:
The reasons people give for deserting the Faith seem most often to fall into one of three categories: distortions of reality (misrepresentation), non sequitur (irrelevancy), and transferring blame to others (passing the buck). How often have I done this, deserting the Faith in my heart, mind, and will? I once justified independence by saying that others were too ‘ethnic’ and don’t make enough room for my culture or, alternately, because a lot of people weren’t showing up when I was. I justified failure to study my Faith, failure to overcome the passions, failure to follow the Fathers, failure after failure. In short, I deserted.
We pray the words of the Prophet at Great and Holy Vespers, “Incline my heart away from evil words, from making excuses for my sins.” Desertions, however seemingly small, are sometimes accompanied by making excuses for sins. While I find it easy to be surprised at the desertions of others, I find my own desertion to be less an apostasy, less serious. And in that delusion is the apostasy. These excuses, delusions in which the Adversary delights, seem to beget more delusions, until finally I have run away from the Desert and into the lush fields, but the lush fields are full of pitfalls and snares and vipers, while the Desert is actually green and moist with life.
“The garden is the only place there is, but you will not find it until you have looked for it everywhere and found nowhere that is not a desert.” – WH Auden
The Limits of Obedience
I don’t pretend to know much about obedience. I do know that there is pious obedience and then there is obedience that substitutes for piety, indeed substitutes for love. When the Priest says “With fear, faith, and love draw near”, we are hearing also steps on the Ladder. “Perfect love,” after all, “casts out fear”, as the Apostle says. Sometimes I need to fall back on obedience out of humility, out of Faith, and sometimes, lacking humility, I must fall back on a kind of law, on fear. In a few precious instances, I find love shining through, and then it seems not so much like obedience as it does giving from a whole heart - helping. I don’t wish to cast away my responsibility to love in the name of doing what I’m told, as though executing orders. At times, I would not be obedient to the spirit or the totality of the Faith, the Apostles, and indeed my elders unless occasionally I struggled, asked questions, petitioned for a change of mind, or even refused to comply. Obedience is not so simple as merely following instructions; it is always a synergy that requires the mind and will of the obedient rather than simply automatic responses.
In being obedient, let us be obedient also the intent of those who watch over us, and not just to words. Those who watch over our souls have the ultimate intent of the salvation of our souls. If I were asked to prepare a meal and I get a call from someone in distress, I am not necessarily being disobedient if I jump in the car and go after him, letting the meal take care of itself. If I am asked to write an account of something I have witnessed and cannot do so in good conscience, I am not being disobedient if I petition to be released from the requirement. And there are times when conscience must be obeyed and an authority disobeyed, even a just authority. We have the lives of the Apostles and the Holy Fathers as examples of this. I do not speak against obedience, only mindless obedience. We do not set aside our minds, our wills, and our flesh when we enter the Faith, letting someone else decide what we shall think and do. We do subdue them, making them subordinate to the Spirit rather than the passions; then, we can move up the ladder from Faith to love.
In this way, we must submit ourselves to one another, as the Scriptures describe. Saying, that is, ‘yes’, whenever we can, instead of ‘no’. Complying with one another because of love, without the need or crutch of obligation.
If you happen to think of me, make the thought a prayer.
-- the unworthy