My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
LIVING THE TRADITIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN LIFE (Part V)
Joy and Fear
How important is joy? The Holy Scripture explains that the Lord Jesus was able to endure the Cross "because of the joy set before Him." Imagine, as He faced the horror of the Cross, He looked beyond it to behold joy. Maybe, beyond the Cross, He saw you and me and it filled Him with joy. How then is it possible for us to claim that we share in His life, and at the same time, be so joyless?
Saint Nektarios wrote the following to Egoumenisa (Abbess) Xenia:
"Realize that your cheerfulness gladdens the faces of the Sisters and renders the Monastery a paradise. On the other hand, your depression and sullenness are transmitted to the other Sisters, and joyfulness is banished from the paradise. Learn, therefore, that the joy and cheerfulness depend upon you, and it is your duty to preserve these in their hearts. Do this even at times by forcing yourself, because this greatly depresses the hearts of the Sisters. Your reward will be great if you become to them a cause of cheerfulness. I give you this advice because I myself have it as a principle in my life. And I want my disciples also to have it as a principle. When you gladden the heart of your neighbor, much more of your Sister nun who has renounced everything, you may be sure that you please God much more than you occupy yourself with extreme forms of ascesis.
Look I know that we all can have a bad day and I don't mean that you have to walk around with a goofy smile on your face all of the time. But let's be honest with ourselves. Is our home and our Church a paradise of joy; or is it, at least when it comes to Faith, a sullen dreary place where prayer and spiritual disciplines and vigils are just things that must be endured? Maybe it's time that we forced ourselves to smile and gladden the hearts of our children, our spouses, our fellow church members, and even our troublesome neighbor next door. As Saint Nektarios said, the payback will be more than you can imagine.
I recently came across a statement made by the son of Father Alexander Schmemann. He said that never in his whole life did his father demand that his children attend church, pray, fast, read the Bible, or do anything spiritual at all. But, he said, his father went to Church with such joy and anticipation that the children wanted to go with dad, wanted to pray with dad, even wanted to fast with dad. What a testimony.
True fear is not terror, but awe and reverence of absolute beauty and grace. This is what Saint Paul means when he says "at the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow." When people finally see the beauty of holiness and the radiant love of God in the face of Christ, knees will buckle.
When the early Christian Martyrs were brought before their persecutors they often answered the threats of their torturers with the simple words: "I am a Christian!"
The first Christians believers had no earthly. They were dead to this world. They belonged to God's Kingdom. In their homeland they were aliens, in foreign lands they were at home. They belonged everywhere and nowhere, for they were "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the Household of God" (I Peter 2:9).
This was the spiritual consciousness of Orthodox Christians in the Apostolic Church, the consciousness of the Church's Saints throughout the ages. This was their deepest persona experience and the steadfast conviction as members of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ.
This is the mind-set of a traditional Orthodox Christian in any age- in the world, but not of the world...As Saint Paul said, whatever things are good, and beautiful, we should hold fast to these.
Bishop Chrysostomos of Oreoi writes:
No less than a monastic, a lay person should strive to fast...to practice chastity...to seek limited poverty (through almsgiving and through a way of life that is not ostentatious), and to acquire the virtues of humility, love, and obedience that characterize the repentant life.
This is the traditional Orthodoxy and the true Orthodox mind-set. Let others abandon the therapies or forget the disciplines - we cannot. Again, we do these disciplines not because we are required to do them, or because God will hate us is we don't. We do them because they are good for us, they work, and without them we will never get well. Without them, we will not acquire the Holy Spirit. Without them, there will never be true joy.
(Next: Righteous Ones)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God