Our Twopence Fasting

Today’s Gospel reading of the poor woman who places two mites in the temple offering is a good reminder for us as we approach Great Lent.

The passage states:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21:1-5, NKJV)

There are those who are healthy and able to approach the Great Fast (Lent) with strictness in their ascetic endeavors; they should do so to the degree that their spiritual father has allowed.  They are like the rich men who poured out their offering unto the Lord; it is pleasing in His sight.  The Lord has given them much, so much will be expected of them.

There are others, however, who struggle with their health and find that anything other than very light fasting can damage their already fragile condition.  Such people should discuss their situation with their spiritual father.  If they bear their sickness without complaining, but instead thank God for all things, then whatever tiny ascetical efforts are made will be like the two mites the poor widow placed in the offering.  They perhaps have given more than everyone else, though it does not appear that way on the surface. Continue reading Our Twopence Fasting

Self-Pity: A Quiet Snare

St-Theophan-Recluse-pravoslavie“Self-pity is the root of all our stumblings into sin. He who does not indulge himself is always steadfast in good.” – St. Theophan the Recluse

SELF-PITY AND GRIEVING
I recently experienced the death of a friend. During that time I realized one of the keys between healthy grieving and sinful despair is the focus of our thoughts. When I began dwelling upon, “I’ll never get to see her again,” or “She’ll never be able to make me laugh again like she used to,” I found it was quite easy to slip into despair. Continue reading Self-Pity: A Quiet Snare

The Life-Giving Cross

Great Lent - Week 3

There is a beautiful irony in the language of the Orthodox Church.  While certain parts of Great Lent focus on the cruelty and brutality that Christ endured for us on the cross, most of our hymns point to the victory, freedom, and life achieved through what was once an instrument of torture and shame.

That is one of the things I admire about Orthodoxy: it does not seek to generate a service filled with emotion or warm fuzzies; instead, it is a spiritual experience.  Emotions are not bad, but they are temporary.  When a service aims to move people through emotional appeal, those who conduct it can be certain that people will fall away from or out of that emotional state, possibly as soon as they leave the parking lot.  The Orthodox Church changes and transforms us by offering an experience of God Himself.

The following are selections from the vespers service of the Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross:


 

O Christ our God, of Thine own will Thou hast accepted Crucifixion, that all mankind might be restored to life.  Taking the quill of the Cross, out of love for man in the red ink of royalty with bloody fingers Thou has signed our absolution. Continue reading The Life-Giving Cross

The Problem with “Hate the sin but love the sinner”

Great Lent

orthodox prostration

The Eastern Orthodox Church is in the season of Great Lent since our Pascha (Easter) isn’t until May 5th this year (it’s late!). Great Lent is a very purposeful time of repentance. We are called to spend time in introspection, to see our own sins, and to repent for them. It is also a time of paying special attention to the needy in our communities. In the Western Church, Lent is looked upon as a time of giving up something such as coffee or Facebook. In the Eastern Church, it is taught that we fast in order to submit our body to our spirit’s will, and also to save money by buying less food so that we can give to the needy.

There is a prayer by St. Ephraim the Syrian that we frequently recite with prostrations during this season:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.”
[Prostration]

“But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Your servant.”
[Prostration]

“O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother; for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.”
[Prostration]

The popular catchphrase

So, going back to the title of this blog, why do I have a problem with “Hate the sin but love the sinner”? Because it always seems to apply to the “other,” aka, not us. If we realized the extent of the horror of our own sins, we wouldn’t have the audacity to focus our hate on other people’s sins. We would instead be focused on the life-long process of removing the plank from our own eye.

When a young aspiring monk came to St Macarius the Great, seeking how he might find salvation, Macarius informed him to go to his cell and stay there weeping for his sins.

Dr.-Phil-Youre-Fat1So, the primary reason that popular catchphrase bothers me is because it can potentially take my focus off of my own sins, if understood in the wrong way.

Secondly, nearly every time I hear this phrase it is applied to situations where the sin is culturally unacceptable or for sins in which most of us are not tempted. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard people talking about obese or overweight Christians saying, “We just need to hate the gluttony, but love the sinner.”

Nor have I seen someone go up to a fellow brother in Christ at an all-you-can-eat-buffet and say, “Hey bro, you know that I love you and want to see you saved. But I hate your gluttony. You’ve got to put that third plate down so you don’t burn in hell.”

Instead, we pick on people who sin differently than us.

Let us spend this Lenten season with our hearts broken by our own shortcomings that we may rise up in the glorious resurrection of our Lord and the hope that is here now and is to come.

~~~UPDATE~~~

There are several places in the writings of the Orthodox fathers where I have come across something similar to the sentiment of “hate the sin, love the sinner.”  If practiced in purity, it is very good advice.  As I wrote above though, we, or perhaps I should say “I”, tend to be a hypocrite and find it much easier to hate other people’s sins more than I hate my own.  That is a big problem.  It is that problem I am attempting to address in this blog.

Someone brought this video to my attention a little after I wrote the above post: