Tag Archives: faith

It would be conferred on them by a gift.

john-cassian“So much did the apostles realize that everything which pertains to salvation was bestowed on them by the Lord that they asked for faith itself to be given them by the Lord when they said: ‘Increase our faith,’ for they did not presume that its fullness would come from free will but believed that it would be conferred on them by a gift of God.

“The Author of human salvation teaches us how even our faith is unstable and weak and by no means sufficient unto itself, unless it has been strengthened by the Lord’s help, when He says to Peter: ‘Simon, Simon, behold Satan has sought to sift you like wheat, but I have asked My Father that your faith might not fail.'”

–St. John Cassian

The entire faith and love and hope.

My whole church is bereaved, because one of our strong young men, the only son of his parents, grown up for 35 years in the parish, suddenly sickened and died. It happened so fast, it seems unreal to us. This morning I attended a prayer service in advance of the funeral proper.

One of the lines that is repeated in song is, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord; teach me Thy statutes,” and I mused on what God might be teaching me right now. Certainly, we should all “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” But I don’t want to forget something else that our rector reminded us of, at the end of the service, that even in our grief we have joy, knowing that Christ has overcome death — that’s why we could pray that our brother will be granted rest “with the spirits of the righteous made perfect.”

Every time there is another death or funeral, my own soul’s griefs are awakened, acknowledged and comforted. And our pastor also kindly included in our church bulletin today an encouraging passage (an excerpt from this article) from Father Alexander Schmemann. He starts out explaining why death must be understood as an evil enemy. But keep reading:

God created man with a body and soul, i.e. at once both spiritual and material, and it is precisely this union of spirit, soul and body that is called man in the Bible and in the Gospel. Man, as created by God, is an animate body and an incarnate spirit, and for that reason any separation of them, and not only the final separation, in death, but even before death, any violation of that union is evil. It is a spiritual catastrophe. From this we receive our belief in the salvation of the world through the incarnate God, i.e. again, above all, our belief in His acceptance of flesh and body, not “body-like,” but a body in the fullest sense of the word: a body that needs food, that tires and that suffers. Thus that which in the Scriptures is called life, that life, which above all consists of the human body animated by the spirit and of the spirit made flesh, comes to an end — at death — in the separation of soul and body. No, man does not disappear in death, for creation may not destroy that which God has called from nothingness into being. But man is plunged into death, into the darkness of lifelessness and debility. He, as the Apostle Paul says, is given over to destruction and ruin.

Here, I would once more like to repeat and emphasize that God did not create the world for this separation, dying, ruin and corruption. And for this reason the Christian Gospel proclaims that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The Resurrection is the recreation of the world in its original beauty and totality. It is the complete spiritualization of matter and the complete incarnation of the spirit in God’s creation. The world has been given to man as his life, and for this reason, according to our Christian Orthodox teaching, God will not annihilate it but will transfigure it into “a new heaven and a new earth,” into man’s spiritual body, into the temple of God’s presence and God’s glory in creation.

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death…” And that destruction, that extermination of death began when the Son of God Himself in His immortal love for us voluntarily descended into death and its darkness, filling its despair and horror with His light and love. And this is why we sing on Pascha not only “Christ is risen from the dead,” but also “trampling down death by death…”

He alone arose from the dead, but He has destroyed our death, destroying its dominion, its despair, its finality. Christ does not promise us Nirvana or some sort of misty life beyond the grave, but the resurrection of life, a new heaven and a new earth, the joy of the universal resurrection. “The dead shall arise, and those in the tombs will sing for joy…” Christ is risen, and life abides, life lives… That is the meaning; that is the unending joy of this truly central and fundamental confirmation of the Symbol of Faith: “And the third day, He rose again according to the Scriptures.” According to the Scriptures, i.e. in accordance with that knowledge of life, with that design for the world and humanity, for the soul and body, for the spirit and matter, for life and death, which has been revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. This is the entire faith, the entire love, and the entire hope of Christianity. And this is why the Apostle Paul says, “If Christ is not risen, then your faith is in vain.”

–Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, 1980,
Translated from Russian by Robert A. Parent

harrowing of hell wide

Looking at stars, snow, and a challenge.

I’ve been out aa crown for our heads - stars RtoPnd about in spite of the weather and my cold – that is, via my computer. Here are some things I’ve found. The last one may be the most interesting, so don’t miss it.

**I learned something about stars and their colors when they are out of focus.

**On the topic of the skies and the weather, I have only this week noticed a way of talking about weather systems as “pieces of energy.” It’s probably not new; do TV weather forecasters use this phrase? This from a recent email:

RAIN WILL SWITCH OVER TO SHOWERS BY LATE IN THE MORNING OR EARLY IN THE AFTERNOON ON FRIDAY. A SECOND PIECE OF ENERGY WILL QUICKLY MOVE TO OUR REGION WITH ANOTHER ROUND OF RAIN FORECAST FOR FRIDAY EVENING INTO SATURDAY.

**Bonnie posted a short and sweet exhortation in the form of a poem by Wendell Berry.ee9f1-cbywindowwsnow

**Last year I was very interested when Podso listed some things she has learned about life, that is, how to have good days. I wonder what my list would look like, if I could ever get past my usual endless analysis to come up with one?

**DeAnn has a good collection of thought-provoking quotes on her blog, which is where I read one taken from a book I read last summer. I don’t even remember reading this paragraph then, and that makes me think I should go back and read the whole thing over again.

“It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul he loved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return.”

~ George MacDonald, Phantastes

**Owen White has a faith-literary-art challenge going on at his blog The Ochlophobist. Entries must be titled in this form: Why I am a ________________.” And in that blank spot you are to place your faith designation, to the degree of precision you prefer.”

Some of the resulting titles in the entries that have been posted so far: “Why I am a slightly miserable but motivated methodist,” “Why I Am Still an (Orthodox) Christian Who Mans His Post” and “Why I am a non-believer who still goes to church.” The content of the entries includes many poems, music on YouTube, works of visual art, and prose.

After you read the rules and see what other people have done (entries have been posted for several days now) to meet the challenge, maybe you also would like to engage with this exercise. I had to push myself to not be too perfectionistic about it, and managed to put together my own entry. I hope you will, too!

blessing of waters through ice