Remember Who You Are

One of my favorite movies as a child was Disney’s The Lion King.  In the movie, there is a character, Simba, who has left his royal family to be raised by a pig and a meerkat.  He fills his days with play and singing “Hakuna Matata,” which means “no worries,” but in actuality, is practiced as “no responsibility and no need to ever grow up.”  He pursues a life of selfish play, which is interrupted when his father, who is in the heavens, reminds him to “Remember who you are.”

We, like Simba, have left the divine royalty and sonship to which we have been called and have wasted our lives in fruitless play, sinful passions, and the pursuit of the “good life” this world offers.  Our Father in Heaven is calling us to remember who we are, and in the words of St. Macarius, I find that reminder.  He says, Continue reading Remember Who You Are

Contemplating the Face of Christ

Face of Christ Holy Napkin Towel ShroudA friend recently asked me, “What does it mean to contemplate the face of Christ?”  Here is an attempt to provide an answer:

That is a difficult question and I honestly cannot give you an answer that is based from my own experience. But, God willing, I will give you something that will help out at least a little bit.

First of all, contemplation (as I have come to understand it in Orthodoxy) has nothing to do with the imagination. So, we do not picture Christ in our minds in order to contemplate Him and His face. Doing so ultimately leads to idolatry because Continue reading Contemplating the Face of Christ

The Tale of Moral Progress

from http://krmenxa.deviantart.com/art/Evolution-53007718
image by krmenxa on deviantart

A concept that is so integrated into our subconscious that we do not even realize its presence within us is the modern lie regarding the progress of humanity. This legend states that over time, mankind is progressing and leaving the old, oppressive ways behind.

Certainly we have seen forms of progress in the past fifty years regarding technology and some civil issues. But do these things confirm that we are collectively evolving as a society? Or are we simply making a few corrections with one hand while driving society deeper into depravity with the other? Continue reading The Tale of Moral Progress

Salvation & Sin, Part 1 – Western vs Eastern Christianity

TWO PERSPECTIVES:

God AlmightyWestern Christianity’s message:
I grew up mostly in Nondenominational Protestant churches.  Like most Americans, I learned sin is an offense against God.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s rules and were kicked out of Eden and later died.  Today, we continue the viscous cycle of sin and death because we continue to break God’s rules.

It is taught that God, in his supreme holiness, cannot endure the presence of sin.  Therefore, in the ultimate act of love, he sent his son to die on the cross in our place and wipe out our debt against him for our breaking of divine commandments.

In More than a Carpenter, the popular evangelical writer Josh McDowell Continue reading Salvation & Sin, Part 1 – Western vs Eastern Christianity

An unholy identity crisis

holy cross monastery, nyIn Eastern Orthodoxy, our theology is based on experience of God rather than philosophizing about God.  Our dogmas are based on the incarnation of Christ and the revelations that God has given mankind through His patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and saints.

We appeal to the authority of these figures because we trust that they have obtained illumination and theosis.  They not only know about God, but they know God through experience.

Experiencing God

Now, when we say “they experienced God” we don’t mean a really warm, fuzzy feeling when they prayed.  Nor are we referring to an exuberant joy or even tears when they were worshiping.  Not even a deep peace that guided their words and actions throughout their entire lives.

Most of those things are commendable and should be a part of our own lives; however, the holy fathers and mothers of the Church experienced God in a much deeper way.  Many beheld God through their nous (the spiritual eye of the heart) and had a very real encounter that resulted in union with Him.  This type of encounter with the Divine usually takes many years of spiritual discipline in cleansing the body and soul of sinful passions and ridding the heart of all evil and malice. Continue reading An unholy identity crisis

Theosis: Communion with God through Prayer

The following post is unlike my other posts.  I am attempting to put into words some of my experiences with Christ through prayer.  I do not want people to think I am trying to be mysterious or some enigmatic mystic.  I am a baby in the faith and could simply find no other way to adequately put my experiences into words.

Theosis: We commune with God through prayer

Monk Praying in Sunset[inhale]
Lord Jesus Christ
[exhale]
have mercy on me
[inhale]
Lord Jesus Christ
[exhale]
have mercy on me

I do not breathe or pray alone,
I do not speak on my own.
But Christ dwells within me,
speaking the words in me,
singing praises through me.

Continue reading Theosis: Communion with God through Prayer

Theosis in Genesis Part 2

The Trap of Moralism

Adam and Eve Icon by Betsy PorterWe were not created to have an external, moral relationship with our Creator, but rather a personal union with God.  While the “personal relationship with God” line is largely taught in American Christianity, we often find we are still unfulfilled.  Usually it boils down to: read your Bible, pray, and don’t do bad things.  While all three of those are good suggestions, they fall short of our true calling: a complete union with God through our own deification.

The Western model of Christianity tends toward moralism as our final goal.  Either we try to do good enough that God doesn’t smite us here on earth or we try to reform the earth through strict laws and/or social justice to try to pull God’s Kingdom down to earth. (More on that can be found in my blog Moral Progress at the Cost of Human Regress)

Even Eve Wondered about Greener Grass on the Other Side Continue reading Theosis in Genesis Part 2

Theosis in Genesis Part 1

“In the beginning…”

4th day of creation (by Betsy Porter)The Bible begins with a beautiful poem from the Hebrew culture.  In it, we see that God is the Creator of the world.  We are not the result of an epic battle between two gods as some of the ancient creation narratives from Near-Eastern cultures claim.  Instead, our God is an artist who created and then said over and over, “this is good.”

In the second chapter of Genesis we discover that we were created in God’s image.  While I have heard a number of interpretations for this – everything from “that means God won’t look like a six-legged, eight-eye bug when we get to heaven” Continue reading Theosis in Genesis Part 1

Moral Progress at the Cost of Human Regress

robertson claiborneI am working on a more in-depth blog, but while reading through a short book entitled Theosis by Archimandrite George, I came across an interesting point that has been on my mind quite a bit.  Archimandrite George states that those Christians who lack a mystical understanding of the faith through theosis often times turn the Christian faith into a religion of moral improvement.

I see that in two extremes here in America:

  1. The Fundamentalist worldview: God is holy and we are not.  In order to progress, Continue reading Moral Progress at the Cost of Human Regress