Humility Archive

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A Message From Fr. Lou A New Year – A New Beginning

A NEW YEAR – A New Beginning

“As sins consist mostly of malice and pride, it is necessary to treat everyone who suffers from the malady of sin with kindness and love. This is an important truth, which we often forget. Very often we act in the opposite manner; we add malice by our anger, we oppose pride to pride. Thus, evil grows within us, and does not decrease; it is not cured – rather it spreads.” (St. John of Kronstadt.)
“If we have true love with sympathy and patient labor, we shall not go about scrutinizing our neighbor’s shortcomings. As it is said, ‘Love shall cover the multitude of sins,’ (I Peter 4:8)…True love screens anything of this kind, as did the saints when they saw the shortcomings of men. Were they blind? Not at all! But they simply would not let their eyes dwell on sins.” (St. Dorotheos of Gaza).
With our entry into another New Year, we prepare for the celebration yet again of the Feast of Theophany or Epiphany, literally, “the manifestation of God,” or simply, “the manifestation.” On January 6th, our focus is upon the baptism of Jesus and the manifestation of God in Trinity, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, ”…when He had been baptized… behold the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him and suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ” (3:16-17). Historically, immediately following His baptism, our Lord went into the wilderness, fasted for forty days and was tempted there by the devil. Conquering these temptations He returned to Galilee and began His three year public ministry with the words, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt.4:17)
As we begin this New Year in preparation for God’s Manifestation (Theophany) it is in the context of these words from our Lord, that I share with you the quotations from above. We understand “repentance” as a change in mind, a return if you will, to God. The outcome of that re-focus on God, is a different perspective towards our fellow humans. It involves a perspective of humility, compassion and love – emanating from God’s Grace. Humility allows us, when we see another’s sins to recognize that we too, are sinners. We have that malady as well with a constant need for soul healing from our Lord. The temptation to scrutinize another’s shortcomings will, through humility turn back to our own need for forgiveness from God. This leads to compassion. Because of our own sin – by propensity and choice – we are one with other sinners – co-sufferers if you will – “sympathoi” – in need of God. This takes us to a call from the depths of our being upon Him for help, for forgiveness, for love. And then our Lord delivers. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have life everlasting.” (Jn 3:16).
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Mt.1:23)
It is the Love of God towards us that allows us to abide in the security of it’s comforting embrace – even in the midst of our shortcomings. Then we desire to love God from the depth of our being. As this love goes out from us towards God: it naturally embraces those around us; it naturally casts out the evil one who hates love; it naturally is patient; is kind; is not jealous or boastful; is not envious or rude; it naturally believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things. Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13).
A new beginning. As we begin this year of 2014, may it be a year of our Lord. In His Grace and Love may we in humility and with compassion, love Him and our neighbor as our self.
Have a most blessed and Godly New Year,
Fr. Lou

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An Attitude of Gratitude

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

An Attitude of Gratitude

“If the only prayer you said was “thank you” that would be enough.” Meister Eckhart

The daily doxology whether read or chanted in our Orthodox Christian tradition begins, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill to all people.” This glory is an offering of thanksgiving to our God for His abundant blessings, for His Love, for His creation, for us. This doxology begins our day and sets the tone not only for each day, but for our life. The beautiful quotation above by Meister Eckhart serves to invite us to have an attitude of gratitude.
The Greek word for gratitude or Thanksgiving is “eucharistia”, or translated literally into English, “Eucharist.” The Eucharist or Holy Communion then denotes a special relationship based upon God’s agape love for us and our love offered back to God in deep appreciation. There is then a continuous and unbroken circle of love between God and us which serves to provide for us the foundation for our life. Living then in gratitude with thanks given to God and others – we live. We inhale of God’s blessings and exhale in grati- tude… and thus we live. This Eucharistic living is not only between God and us but then becomes Eucharistic living from one to another and then we are one in God.
An Attitude of Gratitude…
“Give thanks unto the Lord for He is Good and His Mercy endures forever.”
(Psalm 135/136).
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer, and let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” (Maya Angelou)
“The man who knows the delight of the love of God – when the soul, warmed by grace, loves both God and her brother – knows in part, that the Kingdom of God is within us.” (Staretz Silouan)
“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” (Thich nhat Hanh)
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero)
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.
Have you used one to say thank you? ” (William Arthur Ward)
February 2, forty days after the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity – Christmas, we annually celebrate Jesus’ En- trance into the Temple. Historically, the Righteous Simeon took our Lord into his hands and entered into the Holy of Ho- lies within the Temple, signifying that Jesus was and is the New High Priest. The New Covenant has dawned and our Lord has entered into our presence.
May we praise Him. May we glorify Him. May we thank Him for His Divine Love and life giving presence. May we live eucharistically with a daily attitude of gratitude. Have a beautiful, blessed and Grace filled year in thanksgiving to our Lord.
With our Lord’s blessings, Fr. Lou

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JUST SAY “NO”!

Just Say No

My September “Kandili” article encouraged the readers to join Fr. Paul, Fr. Evan and me in beginning each day of our new Ecclesiastical year focusing on Christ our Lord.  After all, life is about Him, not us.  Last month, we examined humility with a reminder of our Lord’s great challenge to be converted to become as “small children” if we desired to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt. 18:1-5).  Now, this does not refer to being “childish” with the immaturities of childhood.  What it does refer to is to be childlike with a purity of faith, trust and love for God, our True Parent.  A “conversion” here is necessary as following the Fall of Humankind, our tendency is to rely on self and not God.  Quite simply, in order to say “Yes” to God and God’s Will, we must say “No” to our self and our will.  Is this a challenge, or what?

We hear in the Lord’s Prayer, “…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  To become childlike is to place God’s Will above our own.  What is practically necessary for us to do this?  Humility is of course.  Prayer and fasting are also absolutely necessary as they express our humility on the one hand and serve to deepen it on the other hand.  Why are prayer and fasting absolutely necessary?  They are necessary because they both redirect the focus in our life away from us and towards God, when done with the proper attitude.  Orthodoxy teaches us that proper fasting provides a heart receptive to a genuine encounter with God.  Just what is “proper” fasting?  Simply it is a discipline to help us to learn to say “no” to certain things in our lives with a purpose to learn to say “no” to our wants and desires, to our self.  Again, to say “yes” to God and God’s Will is to say “no” to our self and our will.  Remember what our Lord said to His disciples?  “Whosoever desires to follow me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me.” ( Mk. 8:34).  Proper fasting helps us to conquer our own selfish desires.  It is like a small “self-persecution”.  Tito Colliander states, “Ultimately it is just this ‘self-persecution’ on which your warfare depends, for as long as your selfish will rules, you cannot pray to the Lord with a pure heart: Thy will be done.  If you cannot get rid of your own greatness, neither can you lay yourself open for real greatness.  If you cling to your own freedom, you cannot share in true freedom, where only one will reigns.”  (Way of the Ascetics, pg. 12).

We must remember that this whole process is going against the post-Fall flow, against what feels natural to us and against what we are often taught and learn in the world around us.  We learn to care for and focus on our self and our wants and desires.  When we do go against the flow and move out of our self, who do we encounter?  Bishop Theophan answers, “We meet God and our neighbor.  It is for this reason that denying oneself is a stipulation, and the chief one, for the person who seeks salvation in Christ:  only so can the center of our being be moved from self to Christ, who is both God and our neighbor.  This means that all the care, concern and love we now lavish on ourselves is then quite naturally and without our noticing it transferred to God and thereby to our fellowmen.” (Way of The Ascetic, pg. 20).

This November, as we celebrate the Entrance into the Temple of the Theotokos on November 21, the Feast of our Patroness, St. Catherine the Great Martyr, November 25, let us allow their great example of sacrificial love to encourage us to live the same way.  On this Thanksgiving Day, the 24th of the month, let us offer thanks to our Lord for life and all of our blessings by loving Him and one another.  Let’s say “no” to our self by saying “yes” to God in all we do.
With the Lord’s blessings,

Fr. Lou

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Humility and Childlikeness

What does it mean to be a devout and committed Christian?  What is at the very core of our approach to and relationship with God?  Allow me to answer these questions with a quotation from our Lord.  “ At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Who then is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’  Then Jesus called a child to Him, set him in the midst of them and said, ‘Assuredly I say to you unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Mt.18:1-5).

Who do we honor in this life?  Typically we honor entertainers, athletes, the wealthy, politicians, CEO’s of corporations, successful, accomplished men and women.  They are often motivated, hard working, self-sufficient, and articulate.

Who do we honor in our Orthodox faith?  We hold up as examples and honor after our Lord, the saints.  Without a doubt, many of the saints were gifted with similar qualities as those possessed by the “idols” of our times.  However, the saints accomplished something that few have.  They were “converted” and became as little children.  Now, that does not mean that they were childish, with the immaturities of childhood.  What it does mean is that they were childlike, with a purity of faith, trust and love for God.  It means that they were humble and always ready to learn, never looking at themselves as better than another, seeing that anything good that they did was as a result of God’s Grace and not their own.  This childlikeness was something that they, through humility had to re-learn.  They were “converted” to this attitude of life.  Since after the Fall of humankind our tendency is to rely on our self and not God.  Most of the “great ones” honored in our world, with our fallen tendencies focus on their accomplishments and possessions.  A “converted one” learns to direct any good away from self and towards God.  The truth is that in my experience, even within the Church this is not easily accomplished.  More times than not our attitudes are not “converted”.  This is the main reason why petty differences and power struggles occur everywhere.  Our own egos keep us from this childlikeness and humility.  In our circles, this applies to clergy and laity a like.

Our Lord tells us, “…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (Mt. 19:24).  This reference specifically is towards wealthy people.  However in principle “wealth” can refer to anyone who thinks of him or herself as great or at least greater than another, when essentially we are nothing without God.  Tito Colliander in his book, Way of the Ascetics, says, “The holy Fathers say with one voice: the first thing to keep in mind is never in any respect to rely on yourself…This decision not to rely on self is for most people a severe obstacle at the very outset…For how can a human being receive advice, instruction and help if he believes that he knows and can do anything and needs no directions?” (pg. 4).

How then can we “convert” to this childlikeness?  Step I is to, in humility recognize in our heart’s depths God’s incredible love for us.  “ God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (Jn 3:16).  He loved and loves us even though we are not perfect.  Step II is to strive to love God as first and foremost in our lives—above self, parents, spouse, children—everyone.  We have a challenge in our maturation process to learn to depend on God attitudinally as a child depends upon a parent.  I emphasize maturation because this assumes adult responsibility to do things that we ourselves can do and to not wait on our parent (God) to do them for us.  When we do them, however we do them for His Glory and not for our own satisfaction and glory.  Step III is to love others and learn to not focus on their limitations but rather to focus on God’s grace within them.  After all, if God loves us in our imperfection, it stands to reason He loves others as well.   Step IV is to be ever vigilant and not let one’s guard down.  Our fallen tendency is always there until our final breath with temptation lurking in the shadows wanting us to rely on self, thus judging others and even God as inadequate to direct or guide us.

In Humility and like a little child, let us submit to our Lord and God and Savior Jesus our whole life so that through God’s Grace and Strength we may live in His Presence and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

In Christ,

Fr. Lou